Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Title: Red Rising
Author: Pierce Brown
Series: Red Rising Trilogy, Book 1
Genre: Dystopian Science Fiction
Release Date: 28 January 2014

Darrow is a miner and a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he digs all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of the planet livable for future generations. Darrow has never seen the sky.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better future 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 joins a resistance group in order to infiltrate the ruling class and destroy society from within. He will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies... even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

That blurb up there, it doesn't even begin to do justice to the mastery that lies in these pages.

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

That, right there, is how it starts. Instantly hooking me and not letting me go for nearly 400 pages. I wasn't expecting this. I expected another standard-fare dystopia - we've all read them. They are everywhere now, aren't they? The underdog hero fighting against a corrupt system for a brighter purpose. It seems like it shouldn't be so much more than that. I'm not a huge reader of science-fiction, and when I found out this takes place on Mars far in the future, I had my doubts.

But there enters Darrow, a protagonist unlike any other I've read. He's the best Helldiver there is, able to quickly and nimbly gather the precious Helium3 that's so needed. He spends his life happily doing all he's known. He's a pawn, gullibly believing the lies that have been told him his entire life. Not even considering another possibility than the 'truth' he's always known. Until tragedy strikes, and his wife, Eo, is killed by the ruling Golds.

Eo was with us such a short time in the novel. We heard about her, and then only saw her for a couple of chapters, then she's gone. And still it felt like the still-beating heart of me was ripped out. She's such a dynamic character. A dreamer. The catalyst for change - no matter the cost. And the cost is high, not just to her, but to Darrow. And she's never forgotten. I was nearly 90% into the book when Eo was mentioned (one of many, many times) and I started crying again.

Thus starts Darrows first transformation - from ignorant, accepting youth to rage-filled, betrayed husband. His need for vengeance is deep, and he gets his chance. All he has to do is give up everything about himself, everything Eo loved, to become one of his enemy. He'll be reshaped into a Gold, a Trojan Horse slipped in their midst to bring down the corrupt regime. He's to become the knife between the ribs they never saw coming.

I mentioned Darrow's first transformation, but it's not his last. He learns and grows, adjusts and readjusts. He knows he's not the strongest, or the smartest. He doesn't have the strategy perfected. He can't win this on his own. Darrow's fallible. God, how I loved that. He makes mistakes, mis-judges things, hell, he does things that made me cringe. And yet, I was always right there with him. From beginning to end I couldn't help but root him on, willing him to find a way.

It's not just Darrow that's great here, either. He's surrounded by such complex characters, with diverse motivations - sometimes I wasn't even sure where loyalties lay, who was going to betray whom and for what. We learn, right along with Darrow, that the Golds aren't all cut from the same cloth. This changes the way Darrow, and I, saw things. Obviously, some stick out more in my mind than others - and I hope we haven't seen the last of them. But still, I wasn't sure who to trust, and even when I gave trust it was wary and worrisome. What if they were biding their time? I spent most of the book on the edge of my seat....needing to know.

"You do not follow me because I am the strongest. [Redacted 1] is. You do not follow me because I am the brightest. [Redacted 2] is. You follow me because you do not know where you are going. I do."

I read for characters, you might know that by now, that's what will always intrigue me and pull me through the story. But I love worlds, too. Pierce Brown has created such a diverse, complex, intriguing world that I'm in awe of it. The color system he's devised, the way and reason it's implemented, how each group is kept under the thumbs of Golds - blew.me.away. It was logical - imagine that. How it came to be made sense and it was absolutely heart-breaking. I think this world devastated me so much because I can imagine it happening. It scares the ever-living-hell out of me.

On top of all this awesomeness you have the writing that immerses me so deeply into the world, the story that I couldn't let go of it. I can't do this novel justice, I could ramble for ages on how it made me feel, how I laughed out loud, cried and pleaded, and at times it even made me squeal in delight. Red Rising is, hands down, the best science-fiction novel I've ever read. Pierce Brown is brilliant, and I can't wait for the second novel in this trilogy - already I'm anticipating having all my expectations shattered.

Grade: A

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