My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I’m this close to giving it give stars, but then what if book two is better?
I just really have no idea what to say right now.
It might be easy for some to compare this to The Hunger Games, or Ender’s Game. I admit, if you simplify the story, it can seem that way, but there is something about this that makes it feel harsh and brutal in a different way. I can’t really describe the difference. Or maybe it doesn’t need to be so different to stand out. There are many similarities with books in the same genre, at least when put in simple terms.
The complexity of the characters, the emotions they stir up, both in them and in us, is what makes it stand out.
And there’s emotion there. Sometimes it’s anger, or frustration, or sadness, or horror, maybe a little bit of humor, and I mean a little. Because this world that author Pierce Brown has created is not funny. Especially for a Red.
Like in other books, people are place in coded society. The Hunger Games had their districts. Ender’s Game had their armies. Red Rising has their colors. Being a Red is the lowest class you could be in this world. Being a Gold is the highest. Golds have done wrong, and Darrow wants revenge.
And Darrow’s journey to get on the same level as a Gold is not only horrendously physically painful, but just as, if not more so, painful emotionally, especially because being a Red is not only a psychologically and mentally low class, but it’s a physically (physicality and beauty) low class in Society.
Pierce creates a very human character in Darrow, which is why he makes mistakes often through this first book. The thing is, these are mistakes that I didn’t find unbelievable or stupid in a way just to piss off the reader (although it probably has happened if you think Darrow to be perfect). He does many things, though, that you tend to wonder why he does what he does. Many times, I just wondered what the plan of action was for what Darrow was doing. The author purposely hides the answer from us until it’s ready to be revealed to make for a more exciting section of the book. I didn’t mind it.
Darrow is definitely not someone to despise for being weak or trite or dumb. You see him learning and you read him as he calculates methods and plots just to get to the top of his class.
At the same time, much of the story is not nearly as fast-paced as one would think. As stated, Darrow calculates things. He’s methodical, he’s contemplative, and although he carries around this rage and utter desire for vengeance, he’s not not made of steel, and shows or expresses his fragility and loneliness often enough that it’s heartbreaking for me as the reader gaining insight into this young man’s life.
I was hurt when he was hurt, I was angry when he was angry, I cried for his losses, and I was in shock for some of the things he had to do and go through just to survive. It was insanely terrifying to live through the eyes of Darrow.
There was even one point that I literally had to turn my head away from reading a specific section because it was just too harsh and heartbreaking for me to visualize in my mind. Even now, I have a hard time thinking about it without feeling some kind of heartache.
The surprises and shocks only stop once you’ve finished reading the book. It was both amazing and insane at the same time.
Pierce Brown has pieced together a dark world on planet Mars, and he’s used classic books on revolutions as an influence to this story. I was not disappointed in it, and I look forward to reading how things start changing in book two, because book one was definitely just the beginning.