Book Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

red-rising-headerIf you’re like me, then you are sick and tired of every new YA novel being compared to The Hunger Games.  It’s not like Suzanne Collins invented the genre!  But I’m gonna say it, as much as I don’t want to: Red Rising could really be the next Hunger Games.

“My people sing, we dance, we love. That is our strength. But we also dig. And then we die. Seldom do we get to choose why. That choice is power. That choice has been our only weapon. But it is not enough.”  This quote really could come from either novel.  Ok, it could come from a lot of novels; but it came from Red Rising, so shut it, Smarty Pants.

Comparison done, let’s get to it: Darrow is a Red.  No, he’s not a Communist; that’s a term of past social structure wars.  On Mars, a Red is the lower caste that digs in the dirt under the surface of Mars, to create a new surface world that will one day be fit for a population that has outgrown the Earth it was born to.  The thing is, no one told the Reds that they made the world ready hundreds of years ago, and they continue to dig under the feet of the upper class high above.  Not surprisingly, Darrow has a problem with this revelation.

Once this truth is revealed, Red Rising has it’s own “I volunteer as tribute” moment in the sense that it didn’t take long for me to become emotional about the characters and their relationships.  Oops, I said I wouldn’t compare this to The Hunger Games any more…  I’ll just say that, like with Collins’ writing, Pierce Brown makes it pretty easy to invest in the plight of his characters, especially Darrow.  Which is a necessity when considering what he is asked to do later in the book.  Let’s just say that certain members of this world are chosen by the upper class to compete against each other in something that weeds out the weak as the chosen must do whatever it takes to come out on top in the end.  You know, like The Hunger Games, but slightly less violent.  I mean not like The Hunger Games!

Bah!  I give up!  Yes, there is a love triangle of sorts as Darrow clings to the girl of his past while starting to feel for someone in the games with him.  Yes, teens die at the hands of other teens.  Yes, Darrow is a conflicted character who isn’t quite ready to lead a rebellion as the weight of a repressed group of people on his shoulders.  Yes, there is a part of a bird on the cover, but I swear Red Rising is a thing of its own!  I mean, it’s not like Darrow is an archer.  See!?  Differences!

Sure, there is a lot of content in the converging sections of the Venn diagram between The Hunger Games and Red Rising, but they do stand apart in many ways, especially when considering motivation of the characters and when considering the potential future of this series.  The similarities are a good thing, making Red Rising a great companion piece for all those who’ve worn out the pages of The Hunger Games rereading Katniss’s story.

Final Grade:  4.5 out of 5      Follow @BewareOfTrees

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