Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies's Reviews > Red Rising

Red Rising by Pierce Brown
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Actual rating: 2.5
“Darrow. Come here. Come.” He grabs my shoulder and pulls me in. “Others may have failed. But you’ll be different, Darrow. I feel it in my bones.”
I'm sorry, was I supposed to feel something?

I suppose boredom is a feeling. Not a single tear was shed. Not for a single instance was a single emotion heightened. It was by no means a bad book, but the message got lost in the telling, and there is just. So. Much. Telling. The writing is fantastic, but the plot just didn't work for me. I was bored out of my mind for much of the book.

This book tries to be grand. It tries really, really hard to make a lofty, awe-inspiring political message. It read like a rousing Communist propaganda, the sort that would get a crowd of common men fired up, ready to launch an uprising to bring down the almighty ruling class that has long oppressed them.

Wait, this book is trying to make a political message? Something about freeing the oppressed? What the fuck? No. It is a story about how Darrow is better than everyone else at everything because he is The One. His life is saved by the act of God, or shall I say, the act of deus ex fucking machina every single fucking time.

It wants to be the story of a common laborer, a sheep, one who is content with his hard-working life, who is proud of the products of his toil because it supposedly means something. Darrow is the Everyman, the ordinary worker, the common man to whom we all can relate! Not.

If Darrow were a female, I would not hesitate for one millisecond to slap a "Mary Sue" label on him. He is bloodydamn perfect. An Everyman, he is not. The common man, he is not. Average, he is most definitely not. Fine, Darrow is meant to be perfect because he's the SYMBOL OF HIS PEOPLE. He's so fucking special. He was plucked from the mires of obscurity to save his people.

His perfection raises a lot of question, and this book left me largely unsatisfied.

The Bad:

Darrow: The main character is Darrow, and he is so perfect as to be improbable, unrealistic, and completely unbelievable.

Meet Darrow.



He is a 16-year old worker. He toils. A life of hardship is all he has ever known. He is a Red, the lowest social class, the dregs of society. He is an uneducated minor, and a miner (I make no apologies for the pun, I've been waiting to ues that one for ages). As the mad scientist who has been told to turn Darrow into a Gold says...
"Say we make his body perfect, there’s still one problem: we cannot make him smarter. One cannot make a mouse a lion.
That's right. Darrow is not stupid, but he is uneducated. He has not had the privilege of a life's worth of highly selective education. His body is hard, strong, but unhoned in war.

And he dares compete against the Golds, the highest echelon of Society. The strongest, the most powerful, the most intelligent.

Only Darrow dares. And he succeeds beyond anyone's wildest imagination. He is so fucking perfect, and I hate him for it. Despite a complete lack of education, he is brilliant. Just fucking brilliant.
I don’t know the math, but I know the pattern. I solve it and four more puzzles, then it changes once more in my hands, becoming a circle. Mickey’s eyes widen. I complete the circle’s puzzles and then toss him back the device. He stares at my hands while working his own twelve fingers.
“Impossible,” he murmurs.
He succeeds at everything. Lack of knowledge? Fuck that shit, just drink a fucking INTELLIGENCE TONIC AND BOOM! INSTANT GENIUS.
Before I sleep, I drink a tonic laden with processing enhancers and speed-listen to The Colors, The Iliad, Ulysses, Metamorphosis, the Theban plays, The Draconic Labels, and restricted works like The Count of Monte Cristo, Lord of the Flies, Lady Casterly’s Penance, 1984, and The Great Gatsby. I wake knowing three thousand years of literature and legal code and history.
Where was that stuff when I was cramming for my finals in school? :|

Which begs the question, if Darrow can be artificially enhanced like that, why hasn't everyone else? What makes Darrow so special that his artificial physical and mental enhancements haven't been used to make the actual Golds better than they are?

It doesn't work.

The Plot: It just plods on, and on, and on. There was not a whole lot of bad in this book except for the fact that the message got lost along the way, and it was so incredibly boring. My friends promised me it would get better at the 15% mark. They promised me it would get better at the 30% mark. I just kept waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and things never really inproved. The first 15% of the book had my head spinning as we are introduced to the immensely boring and confusing world building. The next 20% was better, because hey! Darrow got ripped apart and put back together. The rest of the book was like, The Hunger Games in that you pitch a ton of elite students together in to a Lord of the Flies scenario until one emerges, victorious.

Maybe. The message got somewhat lost in between the whole "Hunger Game" survival scenario at a leadership training school, the Insitute.
My name, three bars beside it now, floats nearer the Primus hand.
Cassius has risen too.
But there can be only one Primus.
There's the hardship of survival, the fight to be the victor...the, um, battle against pimples?
People remain hungry because we’ve yet to build a fire in the castle, and hygiene is quickly forgotten when two of our girls are snatched up by Ceres horsemen as they bathe in the river just beneath our gate. The Golds are confused when even their fine pores begin clogging and they gain pimples.
Seriously, I can't even tell you what the latter 25% of the book was about because it was such a confusing, boring mess.

The Good:

The Setting: I thought this was well done, despite the massive amount of infodumping without definition. If you want sci-fi, you got it. The reader is instantly immersed into the world on Mars, the underground, the mining world.

There is a tremendous amount of terms that the reader doesn't know at first. The good is that the book doesn't try to spoon-feed its readers. The bad is that OH MY GOD SO MANY TERMS WHAT THE HELL DOES IT ALL MEAN?! The first 10% of the book had my head in a tailspin.

Frysuit, helldiver, Tinpots, clawDrill, scanCrew, headTalk, randomlyCapitalizedWords, etc. It was tremendously confusing.

The good is that the setting is eventually explained. The system of castes on Mars based on colors is explained, and about damn time, too.
The Gray soldiers prowl the cities ensuring order, ensuring obedience to the hierarchy. The Whites arbitrate their justice and push their philosophy. Pinks pleasure and serve in highColor homes. Silvers count and manipulate currency and logistics. Yellows study the medicines and sciences. Greens develop technology. Blues navigate the stars. Coppers run the bureaucracy. Every Color has a purpose. Every Color props up the Golds.
The technology is slowly revealed to us. The reader has to WORK in order to understand the setting. I like that the background of the book is incorporated into the story, there is no stupid "Once Upon a Time blah blah blah" shit type of dystopian background building here.

The fact that the book takes such an easy view of randomly killing off its elite citizens was well-explained, too. I usually take offense at random killing of your best and brightest, but I have to admit that this book gave me an adequate explanation.
“And you may think it a waste of good Golds, but you’re an idiot if you think fifty children make a dent in our numbers. There are more than one million Golds on Mars. More than one hundred million in the Solar System. Not all get to be Peerless Scarred, though, eh?
Darrow's Physical Transformation: My Fair Lady to the fucking EXTREME, man. Darrow is a Red. He is trying to be a Gold, in order to achieve that, he has to undergo a very far-out sci-fi transformation process. Bones are rebuilt. Skin is peeled off. Synapses are formed. There is a TON of blood and pain. It is fucking awesome.
The agony is beyond language or comprehension. I watch videos of it afterwards to distract me from the residual pain. He uses a vibroScalpel to slice the flesh of my thigh down the middle. He parts my muscle and skin with clamps to expose the bones of my legs. Then he peels off layers of the bone with a bonepeeler and paints new layers with his improved-bone recipe.
“Someone has to dot God’s i’s.”
The Political Message: This is meant to be a political parable, and it does it quite well. I could select one of a thousand sentences in this book and plaster it onto a Communist propaganda where it would fit in place perfectly. The political message in this book is loud, clear, and well done. I said this was a rousing book, and it was. The message of inequality is so clear here. The struggles of the Reds are well-depicted. You can clearly see the injustice, the betrayal, the deceit, and I understand the hunger that Darrow felt and his desperation to make things right for his people.
“This is our bloodydamn planet.”
“Through sweat and toil it was made so,” he agrees.
“Then what will it take to take it back?”
“Blood.”
An ambitious book, and one that many of my friends have loved.

It just didn't do the job for me.
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Reading Progress

July 19, 2013 – Shelved
July 19, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read
January 14, 2014 – Started Reading
January 14, 2014 –
page 25
6.54% "No info-dumping, which is good, but I'm completely lost so far. I've been told it doesn't get good until 15%, so I'm hanging on."
February 3, 2014 –
page 40
10.47% "Oh snap. Poor Darrow ><"
February 3, 2014 –
page 45
11.78% "“You may be a slave,” I say very pointedly. “But I am not. I don’t beg. I earn. I am a Helldiver. I was born to sacrifice, to make Mars ready for man. There’s a nobility to obedience.…”"
February 4, 2014 –
page 60
15.71% "Are you fucking kidding me, Eo? You may be trying to be heroic, but it's a senseless, stupid thing to do. Way to fucking go."
February 5, 2014 – Shelved as: ya
February 5, 2014 – Shelved as: try-hard
February 5, 2014 – Shelved as: social-issues
February 5, 2014 – Shelved as: sci-fi
February 5, 2014 – Shelved as: gary-stu
February 5, 2014 – Shelved as: dystopian
February 5, 2014 – Shelved as: boring-main-character
February 5, 2014 – Shelved as: action
February 5, 2014 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-50 of 198) (198 new)


Soumi I started it a while back, but stopped. I couldn't get into the story. The world-building also felt non-existent. I guess I would come back later.


Jennifer this sounds interesting... Gonna have to add this to the never ending list...


Erica Ravenclaw I was exactly like this! Everything was sort of just floating around in my brain, nothing had settled into a clear picture until things got moving and I saw it more in action. It's so good and worth the wait!


message 4: by Pam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pam ☼Because Someone Must Be a Thorn☼ Tee I found the beginning slow, but some of my reading buddies like this part best. I realized afterwards that it was really a necessary part of the world building. Some of my friends didn't like the politics and warfare at the end. I thought that part was brill.


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Starting this one next, so hopefully it's not too slow. It's easy for me to lose interest, but I HAVE to finish a book. This one has good reviews though :)


message 6: by Julio (new) - added it

Julio Genao o noes! i was hoping you'd love this as much as cory did so i could spend precious MF-fic-dollarz™ on it :-(


Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies Julio, I swear everyone loved this except me. I'm the odd man out, so don't take just my word for it.


Aimee ♥ | Aimee, Always First non-fangirl-y review I've seen of this one, Khanh. Sad that you didn't enjoy this one. :(


Experiment BL626 Khanh (Destroyer of Dreams) wrote: "Julio, I swear everyone loved this except me. I'm the odd man out, so don't take just my word for it."

No offense, but I'm glad you're the odd man out and not me. It sucks to be on that side.


Alkyoni At what % did you drop it Khanh?


Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies Aimee: I wanted to love this one so much.

Expy: It does ><

Alky: I didn't. I finished. =)


Alkyoni Dude, what are you? Flash Gordon?


message 13: by S.K. (new) - rated it 5 stars

S.K. Newton I love reading your reviews, so viciously good. I think Red Rising is great though, and I'll definitely re-read it soon, but this was pretty accurate.


Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies Alkyoni wrote: "Dude, what are you? Flash Gordon?"

I go through a book a day ;) I speed read like freaking crazy.

(You should see my notes)

S.K.: Thank you so much! This is by no means a bad book, and I can see why so many of my friends love it (including you!). It just didn't work out for me.


Ash Wednesday Such a polarizing book :) My issues are different from yours (I agree with the sluggish, infodumpery in the early parts tho) but I think I got into the wavelength the author was operating on right after Darrow's been "Eliza Doolittled" as you say.

Also, I don't know if I can like it as a serious piece of literature with a "message" the way I enjoyed, say THG. I think I enjoyed it on the level I enjoy Uma Thurman wielding a katana in a yellow tracksuit is an homage of Bruce Lee... Or something. Everyone's mileage may vary ofcourse.

I'm being obscure. Yay, for finishing! :D


message 16: by Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies (last edited Feb 05, 2014 10:45PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies The book actually lost me as Darrow entered The Institute. Up to that point I was like OH HELL YEAH. HELL YEAH DARROW, YOU SHOW THEM WHAT'S UP. YOU OVERTHROW THAT MOTHERFUCKING GOVERNMENT.

And then...bleh.


Experiment BL626 If Darrow were a female, I would not hesitate for one millisecond to slap a "Mary Sue" label on him.

You can slap a Gary Stu on him. :)


Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies Experiment BL626 (Against GR Censorship) wrote: "If Darrow were a female, I would not hesitate for one millisecond to slap a "Mary Sue" label on him.

You can slap a Gary Stu on him. :)"


I want to, but I'm sexist.

Against females. I hold my sex to a higher standard >_> I'm stupid, I know.


message 19: by Shwey (new) - added it

Shwey Gah, Gary Stus. How much they annoy me.


Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies Admittedly, they're rarer than Mary Sues ;)


message 21: by Shwey (new) - added it

Shwey Khanh (Destroyer of Dreams) wrote: "Admittedly, they're rarer than Mary Sues ;)"

I hate those dreadful things even more! >:(


Faye, la Patata OMG 2 stars!!! O_O Wait, I need to read this review first! haha


Faye, la Patata Awww, super sad you didn't enjoy this one as much Khanh! I do understand your issues though, and I agree with them, although in my case it was easy to overlook. Haha! Now will you read Blood Song for me? :P


Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies Omg. Blood Song. That book has been haunting my Nook forever.


Faye, la Patata Read it soon <3


Kathylill Khanh (Destroyer of Dreams) wrote: "The book actually lost me as Darrow entered The Institute. Up to that point I was like OH HELL YEAH. HELL YEAH DARROW, YOU SHOW THEM WHAT'S UP. YOU OVERTHROW THAT MOTHERFUCKING GOVERNMENT.

And the..."


For a while I was lost, too. Didn't like the whole Roman Empire revival on Mars thing.


Kathylill Khanh (Destroyer of Dreams) wrote: "Omg. Blood Song. That book has been haunting my Nook forever."

Yay Blood Song :D have to reread that book, too.


message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

Command school? Is that like a Ender's Game rip off?


Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies I haven't read Ender's Games, but The Institute is basically a training/educational battleground for future leaders on Mars.


message 30: by [deleted user] (new)

So that is an Ender's Game's rip off. *facepalm*


Kathylill No it's not an Enders game rip off


Kathylill More like lord of the flies / the hunger games


message 33: by [deleted user] (new)

Well.. Just the commanding school.


message 34: by Shwey (new) - added it

Shwey Meh, I have a feeling Red Rising will be better than Ender's game. That one was bloody boring.


Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies Not to mention Orson Scott Card is homophobic and misogynist.


message 36: by Shwey (new) - added it

Shwey Khanh (Destroyer of Dreams) wrote: "Not to mention Orson Scott Card is homophobic and misogynist."

Yup. I can't believe I had to read that for school. :P


Mizuki I at least am glad to see a book which can carry a political message well. Most YA written like the authors know not a damn thing about the society.


Andrea ❤Ninja Bunneh❤ This is why I'm putting off reading this. I made the mistake of reading a book during the hype phase The 5th Wave and I'm not sure if I loved the book or of I was just a passenger on the hype train.

I will not allow the fact that the author is some nice eye candy distract me. ;D


message 39: by Ally (new)

Ally Aah disappointing. Great review. It's amazing how every person reads the same book differently. Everyone seems to love this book so it's interesting to read an opposing opinion :D


Brandi Shoujo & YA Banter wrote: "Love you Khanh. Finally a non gusher."

What, you didn't even read it, lol. You said you didn't like the male POV I thought (or something like that, I didn't go to your review first). Which, speaking of, you should send me your copy from the author since I don't have one ^_^

Khanh, I didn't even catch your updates; I see your points- sorry it didn't work out for you. :/

Andrea, I got swept up bad in The 5th Wave, never before had that happened, but damn, once that settled I was like, wait I didn't even like this that much.


message 41: by Julio (last edited Feb 06, 2014 04:52PM) (new) - added it

Julio Genao @expy: I've been changing my older ratings to match a system that aligns more closely to yours—because it just makes sense, and that's how goodreads set it up in the first place—so you are no longer the only one with the odd-man-out rep. No haters gonna stop our flowwwwwwww *fistbump*

@khanh: I think your review sums it up perfectly: there were fun parts, there were not-so-fun parts... which means "it was okay." On goodreads, that's two stars, sister. *slightly less butch fistbump*

(view spoiler)


Andrea ❤Ninja Bunneh❤ I'm with Julio on that spoiler.

Brandi I totally need to read the 5th Wave again before the second one comes out.


Erica Ravenclaw Quietly muttering all the reasons why I adore you. I will not hold this against you in the future. Maybe.


message 44: by Dawn (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dawn Abron My co-worker gave it a 5 and told me to read it. I got 2 chapters in and quit b/c it had too many words. Glad I'm not the only one who thought so.


message 45: by kate (new) - rated it 5 stars

kate I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it that much. This was the first book I've gotten really excited about in a while. To me, it seems like the perfect book for people in their early to mid 20s who grew up on the Hunger Games and want something in that vein, but more epic and violent. Basically, the Hunger Games all grown up. Does that make sense?


Kelly (and the Book Boar) Khanh (Destroyer of Dreams) wrote: "Julio, I swear everyone loved this except me. I'm the odd man out, so don't take just my word for it."

Nah, you're not the only one. Overrated, overhyped, overwritten. I'm over it.


Kitty (I solemnly swear that I am up to no good) I started reading your review but then stopped because it started to influence me and I love this book too much (me putting my hands over my ears and singing la la la like a fool!) I felt like this was a YA, sci fi version of Game of Thrones and I loved all the fighting. Any way, I am glad to now be your goodreads friend and I shall read your other reviews :)


Heather K (dentist in my spare time) Love to hear another opinion on things! Great review.


message 49: by Therin (new) - added it

Therin Knite What a review! Thanks for sharing.


Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies Mizuki: I agree, a lot of dystopians try to carry off a political message and fail. This book does it well.

Julio: YOU SHALLOW BASTARD <3

Marie: I swear I'm almost the only one

Andrea: Hype is sometimes justified :D

Erica: YOU KNOW YOU LOVE ME

Dawn: Glad we agree, the beginning is slow, it does get better, but it wasn't for me

Kate: It was well written and I can totally see why people love it, and I know what you mean about an adult Hunger Games :)

Kelly: Yay! A supporter *hugs*

Kitty: Lol! I'm glad you like it. It's best to not go in with expectations sometimes :)

Heather: Thank you! Life would be pretty boring if we all agreed :D

Therin: Thank you so much ^_^


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