Red Rising by Pierce Brown – review

By on January 10, 2014

red rising

There is a lot of talk about Pierce Brown’s yet-to-be-released first novel. I was given an advance copy of Red Rising at a convention in October, and told it was “the next Hunger Games.” Despite my interest, it sat on my shelf next to a large stack of other ARCs and samples I had been given. I finally decided to start reading it last night.  I finished it this morning.

Pierce Brown introduces us to a world where your Color is your caste, and marks your place and purpose in society. The highest are Gold; the lowest, Red. Our protagonist is Darrow, a Red born to other Reds to mine the deep core of Mars. When he discovers the purpose he believed himself to be serving is a lie, he devotes his life to destroying his oppressors – the mighty Golds. But in order to bring them down, he must first learn everything he can about them, and that means infiltrating their highest orders. But Darrow realizes it is hard to hate someone you may become yourself.

Many reviews are likening this book to Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games. While part of the premise, a fight for supremacy in an artificial battlefield, is similar, that is all they have in common. Red Rising is the Hunger Games grown up. It is the complexity of Game of Thrones politics born in a place similar to Dune which takes off like the beginning of the Matrix movie. It is what would have happened had Ender returned to Earth at the end of Ender’s Game. And yet: It is its own novel. We name other titles in reviews in order to give the audience a touchstone – to try and make them grasp the tenor and timbre of a story without having read it – but never do our comparisons really illuminate the whole of it. Red Rising was good. I finished it in a night, because I wanted to know what happened.

Red Rising was a bloodydamn good first novel. I think the second will be better. There is room for improvement in the writing (isn’t there always?). The back cover gave away the entire first section of the book for me, but I was still emotionally invested. I knew what was coming and cried anyway. There is a story to be told here, and that is what will make this book rise to the top of the best-seller list.

Watch for it. On January 28th, the Red is Rising.

About Brown