Red Rising by Pierce Brown

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Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies…even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown
Published January 28, 2014 by Del Rey
Format: Hardcover; 382 pages
Science Fiction/Fantasy/Dystopian
Also By This Author: Golden Son, Morning Star, Iron Gold
Goodreads | Amazon | Author’s Website
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Thoughts

There is SO MUCH packed into this novel that I am not even going to attempt to write out all of my thoughts. Instead, I am going to play a little game (since this book revolves around a game of sorts) called Top 3 Takeaways (I just made that up but I like it so I’ll probably use it for future reviews).

Top 3 Takeaways from Red Rising

  1. Nothing is black or white, everything is grey, and all’s fair (but not necessarily forgivable) in love & war: That’s a mouthful, so let me break it down. Red Rising is about war and revolution. It’s messy. It’s tragic. It’s violent (trigger warning: there are scenes involving rape, murder, torture, and enslavement). But both sides are shown and analyzed and the protagonists and antagonists all have realistically complex motives, making this novel full of grey lines. Sometimes Darrow does some unforgivable things. Sometimes you want his enemies to survive. In no way is this an easy novel to read. As Joey from Friends would say, it’s a “put it in the freezer” kind of book.
  2. Character building is better than world building: It took me a while to get into Red  Rising because the first several chapters are mostly world building, which can be rather boring and overbearing at times. I had to push through until Darrow made some frenemies, and then the novel started to get interesting. Those characters are what really grew and challenged Darrow, and the chapters when he is collaborating and conversing with the Golds are far more enjoyable than the first third of the novel when readers are learning about Mars and the Society and the mine where Darrow is from. If you’ve already read this novel, I will let you know that Chapter 36 is my favorite because of the brilliant way in which Darrow is stretched and empowered as a leader and a revolutionary.
  3. A book can be good or enjoyable without being original: The best way to succinctly describe Red Rising is by calling it a cross between three other dystopian science fiction novels: The Hunger Games, Lord of the Flies, and Ender’s Game. During a few moments in this book I honestly felt I was reading about The Capitol of Panem, and The Institute that Darrow “studies” at is just a high school, co-ed version of Lord of the Flies with much more violence and savagery. Darrow is also very similar to Ender Wiggin, an outsider prodigy who doesn’t play by the rules. I found both characters to be slightly untrustworthy at times, unlike Katniss Everdeen who is steadfast, moral, and a character I could trust with my life.

Overall, this book produced good and bad reactions out of me, but I think its praise is deserved, even if the dystopian Society is reminiscent of other novels. Red Rising will still keep you up until all hours of the morning with cliffhanging chapters and unpredictable characters.

You May Also Enjoy

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (for the dystopian society)
Lord of the Flies by William Golding (for the psychology behind war & survival)
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (for the sci-fi and war games)

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Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Assigned Reads

toptentuesdayThe actual topic for today is “Top Ten Covers I Wish I Could Redesign” but I wanted to answer this one instead:

Top Ten Books I Was “Forced” to Read

Here is a quick list of the books I was assigned to read (from 6th grade through college) that have stuck with me ever since. A lot of these I still consider some of my favorite reads. These are listed in chronological order (not as in date published but as in the date I first read them).

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  • The Giver by Lois Lowry – This is the novel that first got me into dystopic young adult reading. It is a page turner for all ages, and I even heard that they are planning to make a movie soon.
  • Our Town by Thornton Wilder – This may have been the first play I ever read. My 7th grade Language Arts class read it together and although I have not reread it since, the themes and motifs surrounding life and death still hang on to me.
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare – Ahh, my first ever Shakespeare read. This is still by far my favorite Shakespearean play, and it too is responsible for my deep love of all things Shakespeare. I have reread this play plenty of times (although I don’t think I’ve ever seen it performed!!). Once during a 4 hour drive from Tallahassee, FL to Walt Disney World, Matt (who was not yet my husband) and I read Hamlet aloud to pass the time. He fell in love with it too ;)

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  • The Lord of the Flies by William Golding – My 9th grade English teacher assigned us so many good reads (including this book and the following one). I wish I appreciated having that class then as much as I do now. Lord of the Flies is a classic. I haven’t met many people who have not read it, and I recommend it to anyone and everyone.
  • Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand – Whether you like French literature or not (I guess it isn’t for everyone), you will enjoy this comedic play. I loved it when I read it in 9th grade, and I still loved it when I watched the Gérard Depardieu film version a few years back.
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – Another novel I believe pretty much everyone has read. In one of my American Lit classes in college, we were asked to give the name of one novel that best describes America. Most of the class picked The Great Gatsby. Any one disagree?

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  • 1984 by George Orwell – Another dystopian classic I still love to this day. In my mind I paired it with this following novel…
  • Anthem by Ayn Rand – To me, this novel is very similar to 1984. Although I read it after reading 1984, it is actually roughly a decade older. If you are into dystopian novels, I recommend both this one and 1984 (as well as The Giver, which I listed earlier).
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville – Never in my life would I have read this novel if it was not assigned to me in an American Lit course I took in college. For starters, it’s massively long. And I feel that nearly half of the chapters are solely about the whaling industry. But nevertheless, this is a masterpiece that I feel absolutely deserves its title as an American Canon. I believe many of us can identify with Captain Ahab…
  • Passing by Nella Larsen – For anyone interested in African-American Lit, this was a beautiful novel. I don’t think I was able to put it down. Heartbreaking and eye-opening, to say the least. (If you are unaware of what the term “passing” means, it was used to describe mixed-raced people whose skin was light enough for them to pass as white.)