“But she’s got the passion for ideas, while I’ve got no extra passion for anything but her.”
“‘Death isn’t empty like you say it is. Emptiness is life without freedom, Darrow. Emptiness is living chained by fear, fear of loss, of death. I say we break those chains. Break the chains of fear and you break the chains that bind us to the Golds, to the Society.'”
“Words are a weapon stronger than he knows. And songs are even greater. The words wake the mind. The melody wakes the heart. I come from a people of song and dance. I don’t need him to tell me the power of words. But I smile nonetheless.”
The Earth is dying. Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it. The Reds are humanity’s last hope.
Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it’s all a lie. That Mars has been habitable – and inhabited – for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down on Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.
Until the day that Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside. But the command school is a battlefield – and Darrow isn’t the only student with an agenda.
- For the sake of brevity, because the Pros list would be long and winded, I’ve decided to focus on what I admired most but these are certainly not every positive or impressive aspect of Red Rising. Stylistically, Pierce Brown has a way of stripping ideas bare and expressing them in simple terms. The most profound, beautifully lyrical lines are the cleanest. They’re not weighed down by an abundance of adjectives but are still lofty in ideas. They read like free verse poetry, a candle to the naked ingenuity of William Carlos Williams and the deep romanticism of Keats.
- Red Rising is brutally philosophical. It takes humanity and rips it to shreds, examining just how far we’d go for freedom, for power. The bare bones of mankind are exposed for what they are, sturdy but breakable. The resilience of humankind is glorified just as greed and manipulation are depicted as the norm. In order to thrive, we must make choices, it’s how we survive those choices that makes the man or woman a hero or a villain. Life is a series of lessons that must be learned and to stay alive we must survive a deadly game of politics and corruption rigged by whomever holds the power. It’s much more than a clash of civilizations, it’s a war of worlds where beast and man are one and the same and evolution is an illusion.
- There’s no sugar coating. The gore is detailed, the war crimes explicit, the vulgarity abrupt and foul on the tongue. Dreams are dashed and burnt to cinders without much hope of a miraculous rebirth. And yet…Darrow’s mission is true. He doesn’t waiver and because of his hardy bull-headed recklessness, hope is a flicker that bursts into flame as Darrow tackles foe and friend.
- Twists will surprise and shock. The hints are very subtle and when the reveals come it’s like a slap in the face. Cold and forceful.
- Every character (though there’s so many at once, initially it’s easy to confuse them) is memorable, unique and represents a shade of humanity or lack there of. There’s jaded princelings and sadistic murders, those who like to rape and pillage in one moment and cuddle the next. It’s a bizarre awakening to the complexities of each individual and the various shades present in all of us.
- Despite the serious tone of the overall story arc, there’s an amazing lightness. The character interactions are hilarious and brotherly. They taunt and harass each other, sometimes in fun, others to provoke violence but I went from smirking to laughing, sometimes not in appropriate sections, when I should have been sulking. They’ll burrow into your heart with how real and likeable they are. Even the vilest characters earn a spot.
- The suspense is killer. It’s a mad rush of insanity and uncertainty that will leave you terrified of the outcome.
- The lingo, at first, is overwhelming. There are consistent terms that will leave you puzzled and questioning without much explanation. From phrases to technology, references are made and there’s no dictionary in the back of the book. Luckily, the words are compact plays that suggest the item while giving it a foreign, science fiction-esque ring. Brace yourself for catchphrases.
- The world building is astounding. The pieces are complex and woven throughout, a hierarchy of humanity and beasts in human garb. The sheer detail and plotting is simply mind-blowing. So why is this in the cons section? From the get go these elements are thrust upon the reader in a tidal wave of information. Just when you catch a breath, another wave of intricacy descends and knocks you off your feet. When you think you know the lay of the land, it’s turned upside down and the miniscule nuances of this society spin perception in a new direction. It’s intense, it’s a tad tedious, and you’ll feel like you’ve been immersed in this world for years in a few pages. Some may feel bombarded or worn down by everything in such a small span of pages and some may have placed this in the DNF pile for being too slow. It takes a while to get started, but once it does, it’s like being possessed by story-by words.
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