Thursday, January 8, 2015

Red Rising: review

Pierce Brown
(Just released in paperback, FYI.)

Goodreads summary:
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.

Now comes the part where I try to write a coherent review of a book I adored and it just ends up with an awkward combination of exclamation marks and caps lock.

So let’s give it a try; I’ll basically list all the reasons I loved Red Rising. And it must be known that I paused in the middle of reading The Name of the Wind, to read this. I didn’t mean to, I just couldn’t stop. (And it’s about 600 pages shorter so.)

When I saw the blurb saying it’s like Ender’s Game meets The Hunger Games…yes, it helped me pick up the book in the first place. But through the entire book all I could think was yes yes yes that’s actually an accurate comparison. For *once* in the history of catchy blurbs.

Guys this book is so vibrantly brutal, and caught me by surprise at pretty much every turn. Even when I thought I figured it out, I don’t think I was correct in predicting a single thing that would happen. It just has a crisp and unconventional feel while reading, despite the rather simple description on the back. Sure it has elements of the books mentioned above, but don’t judge or compare it because Red Rising is a wicked smart space opera and OWNS it. 

For the actual plot and setting of Red Rising, if you’ve read the synopsis, you know the basics. There’s a handy map in the front, which I referred to a lot. It takes place on MARS which is badass and please please let there be more books on my favorite planet. Many landforms are mentioned which you’ll recognize if you’re a space nerd. The game (which I don’t think should be capitalized?) takes place in Valles Marineris and takes about a year I think. The point is to sort of take control/conquer the map a la Age of Empires, and it’s specifically said the point of the exercise isn’t to just have everyone kill each other off. The players are of high-ranking-parents Gold children; the next generation’s rulers. It’s a game of war strategy and social behavior study. Technically it’s part of ‘school’ but these teens don’t know what they’re getting into. Alliances are always shifting, and the rules are grey all around. I would name all my favorite characters, but I fear butchering the spelling, and I’m sure everyone’ll have all their favorites. Prepare for ALL THE FEELS, my friends. ALL OF THEM. 

An element that really caught me by surprise is how women were so equally represented in Red Rising. During the game at the Institute which is 80% of the book, there are just as many vicious girls as kindhearted boys involved. (As kindhearted as a Gold killer can be.) There’s really no mention of anything silly like women not being as strong etc, even in a physical sort of battle. Each individual plays to their strengths, no matter their gender. The key is non-mentioning, just make it so. And to my amazement, it worked. 

Something I’m really picky about in sci-fi/futuristic books is the lingo. It’s normally a fine line between shit and brilliance. It did take me a few chapters to get used to reading it, but then all the words sounded so natural! Especially within different castes—from swear words to compliments, there’s a carefully crafted structure to the language that blends seamlessly with this world.

I’ve somehow managed to have the Red Rising hardcover on my bookshelf since last January, and while it was silly of me to wait so long to read it…I’m impossibly happy I waited because yesterday the second book, Golden Son, was released and I would have seriously injured someone in my wait for its release.

Wow I think I did pretty well with my caps lock self control.