I just ... I can’t even.
Red Rising is the story of Darrow, a low-caste Red who lives below the surface of Mars. He spends his day in abject poverty, mining the necessary ore that will be used to terraform the surface of Mars for future generations to inhabit. It’s a grim life, but he and his fellow Reds have been sold the idea that they are pioneers, so by and large Darrow (rhymes with ...) is okay with his lot in life. That is, until tragedy strikes and he is offered the chance to infiltrate the upper-caste Golds and change things from within, with plenty of betrayals and intrigue along the way.
Sound familiar? Don’t let that put you off. This book is amazing.
You know when people say YA/crossover? I don’t think I truly comprehended the meaning of that saying until now. Yes, I guess this is YA in that the protagonist is seventeen, but some of the situations (hell, most of them) are so adult that I think this is best suited for older YA really.
The characters jump off the page and probably, like, wrestle you to the floor and stick you with a pulseBlade or whatever. I didn’t particularly like Darrow, but I don’t think I was supposed to. I empathised with his plight, but he was such a mardy little git that at times I just wanted to slap him. Suffice to say, he grows as the story progresses.
For me, the thing that rocketed this book right up in my estimation was the worldbuilding. It is, without a doubt, the best worldbuilding I have ever read. And I’ve read a bunch of books. The world Pierce Brown describes is pretty bloody awful,
Plus, he’s amaster of ‘show, don’t tell’, which always wins in my book. It’s just ... God, I’m finding it so hard to find adjectives. Okay, so there’s this part of the plot where Darrow is in this massive Hunger-Games-style arena with a bunch of Golds essentially playing an evil version of Capture The Flag. Every time someone gets injured, a medBot flies down to heal them.
So what’s a medBot? Brown never actually tells us. Not properly. And yet I know exactly what they are. Hell, I can even picture them in my head (kind of like the tiny, scuttling, insectoid robots that all the household appliances get turned into in that god-awful Michael Bay dick-fest, Transformers 2). Pierce Brown gives us a made-up noun and the briefest of descriptions, and leaves you to fill in the blanks. And it totally works.
And medBots are only one of the awesome things Brown has created in this world.
So I felt the weakest element of the book was the plot. Not the scene-by-scene action, which was amazing, but the over-arching plotline. The whole ‘down-trodden hero from the lowest caste of society gets plucked from their lame life by fate and put into a fight-to-the-death situation in order to overthrow the evil hierarchy’ has been done a bunch of times now and while this was a refreshing version of it, this theme is so prevalent that it’s now a trope.
But the thing about tropes is that they’re tropes for a reason. They’re popular. People like reading them. There’s nothing wrong with them, they’re just not terribly original. And actually this book did the down-trodden hero trope really well, so it was fine. And when the least-best aspect of a book is merely ‘fine’, I think you’re onto a bit of a winner.
I’m currently reading How To Be Bad - a contemporary YA story - simply because I need something to reset my mind and calm me down a bit before I launch into the second episode of this trilogy.