Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

January 2, 2014 Dystopia, Reviews, Science Fiction 14 ★★

Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Series: Red Rising # 1
Published by Del Rey on January 28, 2014
Genres: Dystopia, Science Fiction
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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.

Reading the reviews of Red Rising on Goodreads saddens me.  They are glowing.  Rapturous.  Of course, I don’t always agree with the consensus, but I usually have some inkling as to why my experience with a book was different from the majority of readers.  For example, I don’t like stalkers.  But in the case of Red Rising, I’m bewildered.  What did all these reviewers see and feel that I didn’t?

On its surface, this should have been a 4 or 5 star book for me.  It’s a dystopia with shades (many shades) of The Hunger Games.  There is a lot of violence.  There’s a world that’s revealed to be very different than how it was originally perceived.  There are the poor, downtrodden lower-classes fighting for independence against the ruling class.  These are some of the elements that usually make a book work for me.

Red Rising started off very promisingly.  Darrow lives underground on Mars, working as a miner – a so-called Red.  He’s married to the lovely Eo, and he’s fairly content with his lot in life.  But Eo isn’t content.  She pushes Darrow to understand that they are slaves to the ruling class, the Golds, and a simple act of rebellion leads to her execution.  Darrow craves vengeance, and he agrees to undergo an extreme form of plastic surgery, which will transform him into the genetically superior physical appearance of a Gold.  He will then attempt to infiltrate the Golds after gaining acceptance into their prestigious Academy.

So far, so good.  The preceding events occur during the first 30% of the book.  I expected the remainder of the story to consist of a spy drama, with Darrow struggling to maintain his cover as he seeks out Golds who may be sympathetic to his fight.  I thought he’d learn the weaknesses of the Golds and how to exploit them during the coming rebellion.  Instead, he was assimilated into their society immediately, and there was as very little mention or thought given to the events that led him there.  This is when I had my first “Huh?” moment.  So much time was spent on transforming Darrow’s body into the perfect Gold, so I assumed that the need for such fastidiousness indicated that there was great danger of being exposed.  Nope.  There was also much talk of the need to eliminate Darrow’s accent which would peg him as a Red.  Darrow also had to erase certain words from his vocabulary and learn to use new ones.  Now, this must be trickier than his appearance, because speech involves conscious and constant thought.  But he accomplishes this instantaneously.  I wondered why so much focus was placed on the various ways Darrow needs to disguise himself, only to have them barely factor into the story again.

At this point, my expectations went out the window, and I was curious to see which path the story will take.  It turns out that Darrow takes the path to become a leader of his group at the Academy, tasked with eliminating (or possibly murdering) the competing students in a military-style competition.  I’m still not sure how Darrow managed to be accepted as a leader among these bloodthirsty people.  He didn’t seem particularly charismatic or more strategic than anyone else.  But no matter, because Darrow has seemed to forgotten that he’s not REALLY a Gold, and I pretty much stopped caring when my hopes for an espionage element were dashed and we were left with endless, uninteresting discussions about slaves, discussions of strategic warfare, and the drawbacks of nepotism.  These points were repeated over and over, and I checked out.

Despite my misgivings about the book, the number of great reviews makes me think that most readers will enjoy it.

Note I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


14 Responses to “Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown”

  1. Joyousreads

    That is truly disappointing. A lot of fan fare has been made regarding this book and it’s sad to see it’ll be all for naught. Sigh. It seemed like everything that had happened didn’t really have a point.

    Thanks for the honest review, Stephanie.
    Joyousreads recently posted…Back from the DeadMy Profile

    • Stephanie

      It was definitely confusing. I just didn’t get the point of the early emphasis on espionage when it barely came into play.

  2. Kristen@My Friends Are Fiction

    I ended up rating this one 4 because after writing my review and thinking on it I couldn’t ignore how amazing that first bit was and how well Brown writes. I think that middle suffered from over telling but overall I think it is a lead up to an interesting premise that I’ll not be able to avoid reading the rest of the series. I really do wish that the first 30% had been the tone for the rest of the book…because that middle bit lasted FOREVER. I wonder if any of it is edited out of the final version? Great review Stephanie. YOu know I agree with most of your points! Do you think you’ll read the next book?
    Kristen@My Friends Are Fiction recently posted…Review of Red Rising by Pierce BrownMy Profile

    • Stephanie

      It would be nice if some of that was edited out! I do think I’ll check out book 2. If that one doesn’t work for, that will be it. I wouldn’t mind seeing a focus one someone from one of the other “colors.” I’m pretty bored with Darrow already.

    • Stephanie

      I think you should try it! So many other readers really liked it. I do think I’ll check out the sequel.

  3. Kelly L.

    If this makes you feel any better, you’re not the first one to not like this one Stephanie! I saw someone else tweet about not liking this one too.
    I’m as confused as you. I don’t like it when books focuses on a certain theme a lot, then suddenly, there’s no resolution for it or the theme isn’t bought up ever again. Red Rising doesn’t sound like the book for me either. :l
    Kelly L. recently posted…ARC Book Review: Cress – Marissa MeyerMy Profile

    • Stephanie

      That DOES make me feel better, Kelly! I really feel like there’s something wonderful that I missed here.

  4. Cait

    I absolutely loved this book! I can see how it wouldn’t float everyone’s boat though. And the middle did drag a bit. It was nothing about what I thought it’d be…but still. I’m totally in love with the writing voice. 🙂
    Cait recently posted…10 Things I Never Want To Read AgainMy Profile

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