[REVIEW] Red Rising – Pierce Brown

Pierce Brown
Red Rising (Red Rising, Book 1)
Random House Del Rey (US & CA: 15th July 2014); Hachette Hodder (UK: 25th September 2014; AU: 13th January 2015)
Buy (US Kindle Edition) Buy (US Hardcover) Buy (US Paperback) Buy (UK Kindle Edition) Buy (UK Paperback) Buy (CA Kindle Edition) Buy (CA Hardcover) Buy (CA Paperback) Buy (Worldwide Hardcover) Buy (Worldwide Paperback)

TRIGGER WARNINGS: The book contains scenes of attempted suicide and attempted rape, as well as mentions of rape.

My associates’ ratings for Red Rising fall into two distinct camps: 5 stars, and Did Not Finish. Unpopular opinion time! I give it 3 stars.

When something’s described as “cross-genre” or “genre-bending”, it seems to signal that the book doesn’t know what it wants to be. This was my problem.

Red Rising blasts off with the brilliant Part 1, about family, work, life, and death. This section is sci-fi, including mining for methane on Mars. Darrow realises that life will always be rigged, no matter what “colour” you are. (I use quotations because there’s a colour system in place – the richest are Gold, the poorest are Red. Not sure if it involves skin colour.)

Fridging occurs (woman in peril to give a man’s life meaning), and Darrow is recruited to bring about a revolution by going undercover as a Gold. Insert makeover montage here. Then he’s sent to the Institute and tested for attributes to be put in a House. Insert sorting hat scene here.

It’s downhill from Part 2 onwards, and the story becomes more traditional/epic/high fantasy: teens set off into the wilderness for war games, wherein they build shelters, kill or forage for food, capture horses, steal weapons, enslave or kill enemies, until…well, I’m not entirely certain how the game comes to a stop. Though it seems wrong to call it a “game” when rape (or at least threats of rape) and murder are committed so frequently.

The more I think about Red Rising, the more problematic it seems. It’s very tropey, but overall it’s more disappointing than bad. I intend to read Book 2 at some stage, but hopefully it has more sci-fi stuff, rather than pissing contests.

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