Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising
Pierce Brown
Series: Red Rising, #1
Released: January 28th, 2014
Publisher: Del Rey
Rating: 1.5 stars
Word Rating: Um
Reviewed by: Ellis

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Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity 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 sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies . . . even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

Okay, here we go. It's ridiculous the number of times I've started writing this review, only to delete the few sentences I came up with mere minutes later. I really don't know what to say. Red Rising is a book that came with a lot of hype, and I'm not (just) talking about publishers and other book industry people (notice how informed I am about the inner workings of the industry) declaring this book to be the next big thing. I'm talking about trusted friends spontaneously busting out The Fangirl Juice whenever this book or its author was even mentioned.

So I requested the book in good faith, and for the first 3%, everything went smoothly. The story was a bit slow and the writing style took some time to adjust to, but it was engaging. Then I made the mistake of putting it down in favour of ARCs that released sooner, and the longer I waited, the more I realised I didn't really want to return to it. I think it took me more or less three weeks before I finished the entire book, and in that time, I'd already read seven other books, which were supposed to serve as reading breaks while I finished Red Rising but instead became my main reads. Oops.

Because there was an amusing subplot that involved Darrow wanting to become a dancer, I decided (under slight duress from some lovely blogger friends) to make a Twitter journey out of my reading experience. I stopped updating after a while because I realised it took me even longer to finish the book that way and I just wanted to be done with it, but the result of that initial 30% can be witnessed below:

I know the question on everyone's mind: Does Darrow realise his dream of becoming a dancer by the end of the book? Sadly, he does not. Sorry to spoil the book for you. Possibly the series. Again, apologies. Others might be interested in exactly what happens after that fascinating 30% that comprises Darrow's journey from being Red rapscallion to being carved into one of the most gorgeous Golds to every wander the ground of Mars, which is all a ploy to make him infiltrate the system and destroy it from the inside out. 


The entire motivation behind Darrow wanting to fuck shit up for the Golds is that they killed his wife, Eo, because she decided not to conform to the system. The problem isn't just that everything Darrow does can be brought back to "because Eo", which becomes such a mantra that it loses all meaning after a while. There's nothing wrong with a good revenge story, but Darrow quickly loses focus. He's recruited by some underground rebellion group and he goes along with it because why not? Oh, and because Eo, of course. 

As if this entire recruitment thing wasn't random enough, Darrow quickly loses focus of why he's even infiltrating the competition in the first place. He decides that settling for randomly fucking shit up is as good a reason to risk his life as any. You'd think that would make a riveting story, and it does in theory. Random chaos can be glorious when executed well. In reality, however, I was bored. So so so bored. I really didn't care about Darrow and his quest, and the way he became The Reaper and manipulated the game until he'd assembled an Underdogs United team was just ridiculous.

I wasn't kidding when I said the entire Iliad was getting name-dropped like nobody's business. I know similarities have been made with The Hunger Games and Dune, but if anything, this a sci-fi retelling of The Iliad, which sounds awesome in theory, but reads very tedious in reality. The similarities are glaringly obvious. It comes to the point that the Proctors - the Head Boys and Girls, if you please - use Mount Olympus as their base to witness how their respective Houses are fairing. Every Proctor is named after their House, which in turn are named after Roman gods and goddesses. So yes, Juno, Jupiter, Mars, Diana and their fellow divine companions are watching mortals maim an kill each other. From Mount Olympus. Yes, really.

Then there's the issue of how rape is dealt with in this book. First of all, most of the people mutilated and killed in the duration of this "game" are women. There's also this thing where there's supposedly an allowed number of casualties but almost everyone gets killed. Honestly, it's a miracle Darrow is the first to "rebel". There's quite a lot of rape, most of which happens at the hand of Titus, the morally despicable character that I suspect was featured to make Darrow seem like a noble, righteous leader. That's one of my main gripes with this book. Every time the issue of rape came up, it resulted in a scene where Darrow had to make a decision about how to punish the rapist. It was used to highlight the evolution in Darrow's ability to judge and lead. Wonderful.

In the end, Red Rising wasn't the next big thing for me. While there were some funny moments, I was mostly bored and seriously not amused. The plot was predictable, and even corny at times, and I didn't ever bother trying to come up with theories of what would happen next. For one, almost every event, motivation and plot twist was spelled out to the letter and reiterated repeatedly throughout the story. Secondly, I just wanted it to be over.

Darrow was not a decent or inspiring character to me, and he also wasn't compelling enough to make me label him, his struggle and his story as "morally ambiguous". It was so obviously that we were supposed to root for him, in all his underdoglike glory, but I honestly wish his and Eo's character had switched places. I know there's a case to be made for the underdog who becomes a hero (what with social conditioning and whatnot) and I know it's realistic that the girl who sings the song that openly defies the system will be hanged, but what is so special about Darrow that everyone wants to save him? Because I don't see it.


  1. Interesting! I always love to see how people can go from absolutely loving the book to the next person not so much! I haven't picked this one up yet, but I am excited to see how I feel about it!
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

  2. Oh Good Lord, that tweet thing was amazing and I'm laughing and now I'm avoiding this book. I honestly don't know how I could handle it. But I do like that dance is a big part of the plot, cause I like dancing. But seriously, WTF is happening?!

  3. I'm one of the bloggers who loved this, but I am laughing so hard over "dancing Martian"! I guess the dancing part could be seen as funny, but I didn't think it was that big a part of the story. But seriously, this was a pretty awesome negative review!

  4. Lovely review, I have started this book but it has taken a backseat to my other reads because the writing was quite difficult to get into at the start. Dancing Darrow sounds hilarious I'm going to have to read about this!

    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

    Crap. Now that's stuck in my head.
    Yes. Darrow could have prevented all our migraines by joining Eo. THE END.
    I don't understand how bloody+damn happened. I mean are they part British?
    "I'm bring praetors back".
    Crap. Now that's stuck in my head.
    FYI that Twitter slideshow officially makes this my favorite review of all time.
    You will have to do this again for Golden Boy. I demand it. :D


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