Suzannah's Reviews > Red Rising

Red Rising by Pierce Brown
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really liked it
bookshelves: science-fiction


It's not often these days that I get absolutely swallowed up by a book and can't tear myself away till I've finished with it. This book did that, and did it handily. I'd be giving it five stars for that alone, except that some of the language and imagery is pretty crude and disturbing, and I like to give out my five-star ratings very sparsely.

Nevertheless, I have no hesitation at all in telling you that this is probably the best YA novel I have read in a long time, perhaps at all. Why? One word: maturity. When the book opens, our main character, Darrow, is 16 years old. He's also a skilled miner holding down the most dangerous job on his crew. He's married, to a girl he loves, and he's looking forward to being a father sometime. Though he hates his post-apocalyptic dystopian oppressors, when he transgresses a minor law he's man enough to want to protect his wife by knuckling under to the beating. ((view spoiler)) After spending much of the last year of my life time-travelling to the 1100s, a time period where the modern beast known as a "teenager" did not, apparently, exist, this maturity was incredibly refreshing.

I was momentarily disappointed after the plot drops the protagonist into an elite training Institute. Oh no, I thought, this is about to turn into a typical YA novel, but it didn't. It turned into something much better.

I don't read a lot of YA, but I did read The Hunger Games, and I do not have words enough to express how much better this book was than that book. Red Rising is basically the book I wished The Hunger Games could have been. It didn't have a tiresome love triangle, although there was a muted and poignant romantic subplot. It was set in a much more detailed and convincing world. There was a much, much better reason behind everything - putting godlike genetically engineered spoilt rich kids through a hellish training exercise designed to identify leadership skills makes so much more sense than a televised gladiatorial deathmatch that includes a fragile 12-year-old girl and a trained, basically grown man of 18.

But what I was most impressed about was how Red Rising deals with the larger ethical problems that The Hunger Games repeatedly whiffed. In Red Rising, the characters have to get used to killing each other too; but where Collins spared her heroine direct responsibility and then rationalised away her few and indirect kills, Brown makes his hero kill a man in cold blood, then calls it a sin, then makes him suffer for it for the rest of the book. In both books, the protagonists rage against a heartless and evil society that makes them do unspeakable things to each other, but where Collins's characters react by...doing exactly what the Man wants them to do, fizzling out with a lame double suicide threat, Brown's finally throw up their hands, say "No more" and then do something about it, which something is basically, more or less, exactly what I wished Katniss had done in The Hunger Games.

I kept wondering if Pierce Brown is a Christian or at least an old-fashioned conservative; because everything he wrote was just so sane. And I'm sad that the squillions of Christian teens reading The Hunger Games are never going to touch Red Rising because it has some bad words and crudities in it. Because while I could critique some aspects of the story, this book is exactly what The Hunger Games should have been and wasn't. Red Rising confronted the big questions instead of evading them, and it did so in a mature, thoughtful, and realistic manner.
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Reading Progress

February 1, 2016 – Started Reading
February 1, 2016 – Shelved
February 1, 2016 – Shelved as: science-fiction
February 1, 2016 –
10.0% "This is literally the first YA novel I've ever read with a married working-man protagonist. SO REFRESHING."
February 2, 2016 –
12.0% "ACK WHAT NO. NO. BAD AUTHOR. NO BISCUIT. (This is the manliest book ever. Even when the protagonist is crawling before the evil overlords it's done in a manly way.)"
February 5, 2016 –
34.0% "Somewhat disappointed that having started out this book a responsible adult, the protagonist now appears to be in Hogwarts. :/"
February 6, 2016 –
66.0% "Ah. "Cassius." Suppose calling him "Brutus" would have been too obvious."
February 7, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-11 of 11 (11 new)

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message 1: by Joy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joy C. I am reading "The Hunger Games" at the moment, and I'm excited to read this book thanks to your review, because yes, there are those really annoying elements to HG (especially so far in book 2) that irk me a lot. :P This sounds good though!

message 2: by Annie (new) - added it

Annie Hawthorne I've been greatly intrigued by this book and now I MUST HAVE IT.

Corey YES.

Corey Excellent review of an excellent book. I knew you'd dig it.

Suzannah Joy, personally I couldn't be bothered reading more than the first HUNGER GAMES book; but I'm keen to rush off and read the next RED RISING book. It is good, though a bit intense :).

Annie, I hope you like it as much as I did!

Thanks heaps for the recommendation, Corey. It wasn't really on my radar before then, although I was a fan of the cover design!

Brianna Silva WOW! I totally thought this book would be another dumb addition to the dystopian trend. But it appears I may be wrong. I may have to read it myself.

Suzannah *flails* Brianna, THIS BOOK WAS NOT DUMB. It was probably the LEAST dumb book I've read in a while.

Joshua and fyi, on sale at audible for usd$4.95

Fiona Akkerman Couldn't have said it better myself! Great review. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Suzannah. I felt the same, and I can't wait to read your comments on Golden Son. I own both books and I'm looking forward to reading the third.

Christina Baehr Oh good. I thought my strong desire to check out this book was just a frivolous interest in the fact that the author's name reminded me of my husband's. Now I know it was a startling flash of inexplicable insight. :D

Suzannah Fiona, I've broken my usual "read series slowly" rule JUST FOR THIS TRILOGY. Thank goodness the third book releases this week :).

Christina, ha! It's definitely quite gritty and intense to the point where even I sometimes felt scared to go on reading, so I hope you enjoy it.

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