This review is written with a GPL 3.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at Bookstooge.booklikes.blogspot. wordpress.leafmarks.com & Bookstooge's Reviews on the Road Facebook Group by Bookstooge's Exalted Permission.
Title: Red Rising
Series: Red Rising
Author: Pierce Brown
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Format: Kindle Digital Edition
Our culture has stratified into Colors. Darrow is a Red, working in the mines of Mars to make it habitable for the masses of Earth. When his wife is killed and he himself smuggled out of the mines, change is in the wind.
Everything Darrow has been taught has been a lie. Humanity spans the Solar System and the Reds toil for the pleasure of the other colors. They are slaves. Turned into a Gold, Darrow must now infiltrate Gold Society and try his best to bring it to its knees. But first he must survive the Academy and its no holds barred weeding out process. The Golds rule because they are as brutal with their own culling as they are in dominating the other colors.
Holy Smokes!! (long for me review ahead)
First things first. A huge thanks to Dang Rover for reviewing this trilogy and explicitly stating that this was NOT young adult. I had seen glowing reviews, but everything led me to believe it was YA and I just wasn't interested. However, Dang was right, this is definitely not YA. I can see why I thought it was though. On the cover, it has a blurb by that asinine author Scott Sigler saying:
"Ender, Katniss and now Darrow!"
Then the continual references in reviews to the Hunger Games. Also the fact that Darrow is 16-18 during this book. All the YA tags too. And the publisher promoting it as YA on various outlets.
So let's deconstruct WHY this isn't actually YA, shall we?
Darrow himself. While he is 16 at the beginning of the book, he is already married and a skilled and ethical worker. He believes in what he is doing and that the sacrifices everyone in the Red community is making are worth it because it betters humanity. In other words, he has already grown up by the time we meet him. The whole death of his wife and revelations about society do not essentially change him. He is already formed in his character. In this same vein, as he goes through the Academy test, what he experiences is not something new, as it is for other young Golds. Deprivation, violence, the hard knocks of life, are all things he already knows about.
The violence level. I gave this my ultra-violence tag and it definitely deserves it. It also pushes the book clearly into the adult section. Violence is a huge part of this book, as it is the way the Gold's weed out the weak. It is brutal, it is harsh, it is explicit at times and it is unrelenting. There is rape. Thankfully, not graphic or sordid, but it plays a large part in several instances and people should be aware of that.
Finally, Darrow's focus on his mission. There are several times where he lets things happen that are wrong because his job is to become a high ranking Gold. He feels bad about it but knows his mission must come first. As an adult, I can separate from that. I sure wouldn't want to expose any young minds to that kind of thinking though. It is very much a "Ends Justifying the Means" kind of philosophy being displayed. I find the underlying philosophy to be highly questionable at best and wouldn't want to expose a young mind to it before said young mind had already had a solid base from which to judge for itself. Kind of like a very dangerous rock climb. After some experience, or with an experienced rock climber, you can let them have at it. But before? You'd be criminally negligent in letting them try to navigate this by themselves.
So those are the reasons why this isn't YA. I also find it distasteful that the publishers are pushing it as such.
Now on to a more "regular" review.
Again, I say "Holy Smokes!!!"
I read this book in ONE sitting. I stayed up until 2am to finish it. I paid for that the next day, and I'll keep that in mind for when I read the next book. Probably save it for a weekend. It dragged me in and kept me glued to my kindle until the very last page.
Darrow's narration could be at times a bit flowery and I did find myself thinking once or twice "nobody is going to talk or think like that". However, it worked out ok.
The action was incredible. The battle in the Academy was awesome. Taking up almost a whole year, we get to see fighting from one on one to group tactics. We also get to see the class take on the Proctors [the Gold's assigned to oversee the whole process] because of their corruption. Having the Proctor's be corrupt also added an additional level of tactics, as Darrow not only had to overcome his classmates, but the Proctors as well, who were experienced Golds.
I also enjoyed how Brown made Darrow think and choose between several goals at once. Does he want revenge for the killing of his wife? What does he do when finds out he isn't the only Red turned into a Gold? Can he fall in love a second time? Can he put up with serving someone who pretty much embodies evil to further his aims?
Loved this book and am really looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy as I get around to it.