Review – Red Rising

Red Rising – Pierce Brown

The Earth is dying. Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it.
The Reds are humanity’s last hope.

Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it’s all a lie. That Mars has been habitable – and inhabited – for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down at Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.

Until the day Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside.
But command school is a battlefield – and Darrow isn’t the only student with an agenda.

I would have lived in peace. But my enemies brought me war.

I’d heard a lot about the Red Rising series on bookstagram, and it had always interested me – I think I picked the book up at Christmas last year, but just never got around to reading it. Then a couple of months ago, I joined a local gym as part of my rehab from a knee injury, and quickly decided that listening to music while working out wasn’t for me – so I decided to give audiobooks a go. This worked very well, as not only did it give me motivation to actually go to the gym so I could continue the story, it also meant I wasn’t concentrating on how long I’d been on the treadmill for (and sometimes I even stayed on longer to finish a chapter!)

Having just finished the Illuminae Files (which were awesome, and I’ll probably do a post about them later) I was a little worried about going back to a ‘traditional’ audiobook – ie with only one narrator – but seeing as I wasn’t any closer to picking up my physical copy of Red Rising I thought I’d try listening to it instead.

I will admit – I struggled a little at the start. I thought it took a while to get going, although it gives a lot of background about Darrow’s family and living situation, which does become relevant later on. However, it soon picks up, and I really became invested when Darrow left the mines and headed to The Institute to infiltrate the Golds.

At this point, I feel like comparisons to Ender’s Game are inevitable – The Institute and Battle School in EG are quite similar, groups of students sorted into teams and ‘playing’ war games, but as that was my favourite part of EG I didn’t mind. There is a lot more detail in Red Rising about the power plays and battles that take place, and they are much more varied due to the environment they’re held in. I know other people didn’t really like that part but I love strategy and war games, and I feel like Pierce Brown does a very good job of describing the power struggles and how Darrow’s previous experiences influence his decisions.

‘I live for the dream that my children will be born free. That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.’
‘I live for you,’ I say sadly.
She kisses my cheek. ‘Then you must live for more.’

The other characters within Darrow’s house are very intriguing, and I would have liked a little more background on Sevro, Roque, Pax and the rest. I do think that Darrow was a good character to have as a narrator, conflicted but brilliant, and always able to come up with a plan. However he does do a lot of internal monologue-ing, especially about events that happened near the beginning of the book and things he has lost, and I think the book may have benefited from a little less whining and a little more focus on other characters.

I only have a couple of criticisms – it seems to be a common theme in YA that we have a ‘hero’ who is plucked from more or less mediocrity and all of a sudden becomes exceptional at whatever they choose to be (I know Darrow does do a lot of training during his transformation from Red to Gold) but for a Hell Diver he does seem to have a very innate understanding of strategy and war and weapons, especially when compared to other Golds that have been training their entire lives to attend the Institute.
As mentioned above it was quite slow at the start, and Darrow does drone on a bit, but overall I very much enjoyed it, and I think the audiobook actually improved my rating. Tim Gerald Reynolds really brings the book to life, and whenever I see the book I now have his voice saying “Oh Reeeeaaper” in my mind. I’m not sure that would have come across if I had just been reading it normally!

Death isn’t empty like you say it is. Emptiness is life without freedom…Emptiness is living chained by fear, fear of loss, fear of death. I say we break those chains.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Published 2014 by Hodder & Stoughton
Read August 2018


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