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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A Separate Peace by John Knowles

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“We reminded them of what peace was like, of lives which were not bound up with destruction.”

A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Published 1959 by Secker & Warburg

Classics/Young Adult
Format: paperback; 204 pages
Also By This Author: Peace Breaks Out, Phineas
Goodreads | Amazon

My Rating: 4/5 

Synopsis:

Set at a boys boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace is a harrowing and luminous parable of the dark side of adolescence. Gene is a lonely, introverted intellectual. Phineas is a handsome, taunting, daredevil athlete. What happens between the two friends one summer, like the war itself, banishes the innocence of these boys and their world.

Thoughts:

I first read A Separate Peace nearly 14 years ago while I was in 7th grade. I’ve always felt like my assigned reading choices in school were generally interesting books that made a long-lasting impact on me; A Separate Peace is no exception. Do you ever reread books you haven’t read in ages and find yourself thinking, “I do not remember imagining it this way”? For me it was more about remembering the characters differently.

Gene and Phineas are two 16-year-old boys living at an all-boys prep school, where most of the students and staff are affected by the outbreak of WWII. Gene and Phineas, along with a few other students, create the “Super Suicide Society,” where the whole goal is to do daring and rule-breaking stunts. This club, and the leadership of Phineas, reflect the escape the boys try to make from the reality of war. The irony, however, is that the boys have brought the war into their club.

Before I reread this book, I had the mindset that Phineas was that one friend we all have who always tries to “one up” us in everything. You know who I’m talking about–you do well on a test, they do better; you feel like you’re really good in a sport or hobby, they show you how much more talented they are (and make it look effortless); you receive an awesome present from someone, they tell you that they got one once and it just wasn’t that great. Well, when I reread this novel, I realized that Phineas is not that “one-upper” friend at all. Which means that I obviously relate a lot to Gene, who creates this whole unspoken competition between himself and Phineas.

I think a lot of people can relate to the characters and circumstances in this novel, even though it takes place in the early 1940s. That’s why this book had so much impact on me when I was 12 and when I was 25; you can put those themes into any context and will still be able to empathize with the characters.

Read This Book If…:

…you enjoy short, powerful novels.
…you like reading historical, young adult books that deal with mature subject matter.
…you’re intrigued by themes of war, childhood innocence, jealousy, and forgiveness.

Final Musings:

One of the things I love most about these short & powerful novels is that they always have so many good quotes to reflect on!

“Because it seemed clear that wars were not made by generations and their special stupidities, but that wars were made instead by something ignorant in the human heart.”