There are books that you can call rollercoasters, and there are books you can call boring. There are books that you can call entertaining, exciting, thrilling, and all of the above. But I can’t call Red Rising any of that, because it’s something else entirely. It’s a punch in the gut and slap across the face. It’s merciless and unforgiving. It’s like God himself stuck two divine fingers up your nose and dragged you kicking and screaming down, down deep into the centre of Mars. And you know what? I enjoyed every bloodydamn minute of it.
Set in a futuristic society where humanity’s caste system has been segmented into colours, Red Rising involves a Red named Darrow, a sixteen year old kid forced to grow up real quick in the bowels of Mars mining for rare resources. He and the rest of his caste, all Reds, are made to work the mines under the illusion that they are preparing to make the surface of Mars habitable for the rest of humanity. Once habitable, they would move to the surface and be treated like heroes. Unfortunately, that’s not the case (when is it ever?). Reds are the lowest of the low, and Mars has been colonized for a very long time by Golds, Silvers, Greens and Blues – practically every other colour under the sun except for Reds. A heartbreaking series of events leads Darrow to rebel group the Sons of Ares, and from there things just go ballistic.
Written in first-person present tense, Red Rising carries a tone that demands you to read it. As the point of view never switches, the tension never lets up, and the action never ceases. It’s a relentless journey filled with heartbreak, betrayal, revenge and brutal, senseless violence, and reading it was an absolute joy. Pierce Brown is a masterful storyteller, and his skill in pacing, character development and worldbuilding is unsurpassed by most. Darrow is an unstoppable bowling ball of chaos and destruction, brute-forcing his morals onto a Gold academy that thought themselves ready to withstand the worst society had to offer. The rest of the cast is just as unforgettable, and it’s testament to Brown’s skill that every one of them feels authentic, like I’d met them in person only days ago.
The only fault I can find with Red Rising can be attributed mainly to my shortcomings as a reader; it took me a little while to get used to the present-tense first-person writing style. But once I’d entered that rhythm, I was hooked. 5 Stars!