Don’t Ask Questions, Just Read It: RED RISING by Pierce Brown – Review

Red Rising 3DRed Rising (Red Rising Trilogy #1) by Pierce Brown
Genre: Adult science fiction
Publisher:  Del Rey Books
Release date: January 28 2014
Source: ARC from San Diego Comic Con & e-ARC via NetGalley
Pages: 382

five stars

The nitty-gritty: This book has it all: kick-ass action, mind-blowing world building, characters with depth, tear-inducing emotional moments, oh god just GET THIS BOOK AND READ IT RIGHT NOW!!!

On Mars there is not much gravity, so you have to pull the feet to break the neck. They let the loved ones do it.

Soon, there is no sound, not even the creaking of the rope.

My wife is too light.

She was only just a girl.

Then the thumping of the Fading Dirge begins. Fists on chests. Thousands. Fast, like a racing heartbeat. Slower. A beat a second. A beat every five. Every ten. Then never again, and the mournful mass fades away like dust held in the palm as the old tunnels wail with deep winds.

And the Golds, they fly away.

So I could just cut out 900 or so words from this review and reiterate what I said above. Simply put, this is my favorite book of the year so far. I’ve had this sitting in a pile of books since last July. July, people!! It sat there gathering dust as I read other, less worthy books. I told myself I might read it at some point, but since it wasn’t a review book, I may not have time to get to it. Then I saw it on NetGalley and requested it, thinking that a NetGalley approval might light a fire under my ass and get me to read it. And that worked. I read it, THANK GOD. Mr. Brown is quite the writer, and at the tender age of twenty-five he’s got a hell of a career ahead of him.

You may have heard about the comparisons this book is garnering, most notably to The Hunger Games and A Game of Thrones. I can’t vouch for the latter comparison, because I may be the only person on the planet who hasn’t read A Game of Thrones (or watched the TV show for that matter), but yes, there are similarities to The Hunger Games. I was also reminded of The Matrix and The Six Million Dollar Man while reading Red Rising. But you should not let these comparisons color your opinion of the story before you read it. Comparisons are simply handy tools that publishers use to entice a certain audience. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. Pierce Brown may have incorporated some of these ideas, but he’s done so in a completely unique way, and the end product is like nothing I’ve read before.

I really don’t want to give too much of the story away, but here’s a quick synopsis: Darrow is a  sixteen-year old boy who is a Helldiver, someone who mines the deep tunnels of Mars to find helium-3, a precious substance that is necessary in order to terraform Mars, whose surface is uninhabitable.  He’s also a Red, the lowest color in an intricately devised social system. His entire life he’s been told that his job is a noble one, and that the hardships he and his family endure are for the greater good.

But one day Darrow discovers something terrible: the hardscrabble life he and his friends and family have been living down in the tunnels is all a lie. Mars has already been terraformed and is being ruled by the Golds, who have been enslaving Reds for hundreds of years. After several twists of fate, Darrow finds himself removed from the tunnels by a resistance group who wants to use him to topple the Golds from their lofty perch. But first Darrow will have to convince everyone that he’s a Gold himself. What follows is a series of tests to see just how convincing he can be.

Wow, where do I start? The first thing you should know about Red Rising is that there is a fair amount of graphic violence in its pages. Some of the most horrific passages occur not while the students are doing battle with each other, but before Darrow even gets to the command school. In order for him to become a weapon to take down the society, he must be transformed into a Gold, and when I say transformed, I’m not talking about magic. I’m talking about surgery. Lots of it, graphically described. (This is where my Six Million Dollar Man comparison comes in.) It also reminded me of another favorite book of mine, The Scar by China Miéville, where a character undergoes surgery that will give him gills so that he can live underwater. Just think about that for a moment, and you’ll have an idea of what’s in store for Darrow.

But violence aside, Red Rising has a surprising amount of humor and emotion in it as well. Darrow’s love for his wife Eo is a constant thread that pulls us through the book and ultimately keeps him going, even as his life is falling apart. Some passages even brought tears to my eyes. I grew to love so many of the characters in this book, and since not everyone makes it out alive, well, yes, I cried. Damn you Mr. Brown! You made me cry with your gorgeous prose and your heartfelt emotional moments and your lovably flawed characters.

And the humor, it came just at the right times, just when you think everything’s headed to hell, the author lightens the mood and throws in dialog like this:

Sevro shrugs. “We’ll take Minerva’s standard.”

“W-wait,” Cassius says. “You know how to do that?”

Sevro snorts. “What do you think I’ve been doing this whole time, you silky turd? Wanking off in the bushes?”

Cassius and I look at each other.

“Kind of,” I say.

“Yeah, actually,” Cassius agrees.

I’m also happy to have stumbled upon the Red Rising website, because it gives readers a chance to delve into the fantastic world that Brown has created, in an interactive way. The best thing I found there was this wonderful graphic that shows the hierarchy of the society:


Each piece of the pyramid is the symbol for a particular color. I encourage you to visit the site and learn more about it here. You can also figure out which color best describes you and download the symbol here.

Honestly, I could go on and on (and on and on…) about Red Rising, but wouldn’t you rather be reading the actual book yourself? If you love great storytelling, finely nuanced characters, and writing that pierces your heart and makes it bleed, then please don’t let this one slip past you.

Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. Above quotes were taken from an uncorrected proof, and may differ in the finished book.

Find Red Rising here:

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Posted February 22, 2014 by Tammy in Bones & Buffy Hall of Fame, Five stars, Giveaways, Reviews / 61 Comments


61 responses to “Don’t Ask Questions, Just Read It: RED RISING by Pierce Brown – Review

  1. Literally all I did was read the title of your review, and I was sold. I’ve been hearing nothing but amazing things about this book, which makes me regret not request it for review when I had the chance. I totally trust your opinion, so I will definitely check this one out when I get a chance! And OMG I DID NOT EVEN SEE THAT GIVEAWAY FORM WAIT I’M ENTERING! I would have commented without there being a giveaway. But OMG. I’m entering 😀

    Thank you for the giveaway, and amazing review, Tammy!

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

  2. Tammy

    I’m looking forward to read this. I’m a huge fan of Game Of Thrones and currently on the fifth book so this sounds like the perfect book to pick up next.

  3. Oh, I loved this book SO MUCH. One of the most impressive debuts I’ve ever read, and the writing is just so gorgeous.

    I have this one already so I will refrain from entering, but everyone else DO IT 😀

  4. Great review. I have started on this but things got in a way and I had to put it aside. I do hope when I do pick it up again that it will pick back up a bit.

  5. I was supposed to have won a signed book from the author at a video conference , but it never arrived, so now I’m desperate for a copy. I love, love love this book. Thank you for a wonderful review.

  6. Reblogged this on The Book Revue and commented:
    I was selected as the winner of an autographed (personalized) copy of Red Rising from the author several weeks ago. It still has not arrived, so I’m thinking those in charge lost my information and the book is not going to arrive. Thus is my life. So, I am desperately trying to win another. In my generosity, I’m forwarding a copy of this in case you might want to try (please don’t feel that you MUST, since of course, I desperately want to win) as well. 🙂 I’ve read this book and plan to have the my own review review on the blogs (my other blog is The Book Revue) soon. I’ve overbooked myself on tours and reviews, so it could take a bit, though. In the meantime, if you get a chance, read this book. It is great. It is NOT a young adult read (remember, YA is an AGE GROUP, NOT a genre) – it is quite violent (which I like), so is more appropriate for those who are hopefully long past puberty.

  7. Like you, I picked this up at SDCC, and yikes I haven’t read it yet. Sounds like I need to remedy that right away! Awesome review, Tammy.

  8. It is official. I am the only one in the world that didn’t fall in love with this one. I didn’t hate it, just considered it a middle if the road outing. But person after person with similar taste as me are telling me I am wrong.

    Ill probably watch the movie though.

  9. Red Rising sounds fantastic, I won a copy recently so I have this one on my shelf ready to go! Now I know why it’s aimed at the adult market instead of YA, because of the graphic violence. I’ve heard the world building for this one is excellent, that graph just shows how complex it is. Lovely review Tammy!

  10. Alyn Y

    I actually have a copy sitting upstairs in my room waiting to be read. I was lucky enough to get on the wait list early. I’ll be reading it soon and then returning it to the library again.

  11. Pabkins

    I do plan on reading this one asap since a special someone sent me a copy from comic con #wink and now that you have so obviously loved it i really need to! I could really go for some humor and emotion. It sounds amazing.

  12. I saw this and wanted it, and then realised that I couldn’t enter due to my Canadian-ness. In true Canadian fashion, sorry I couldn’t enter your wonderful contest. Also, hockey and maple syrup.

  13. I’m just starting this and so excited.Sorry I couldn’t read your review. I don’t read them til mine is written. Your rating is encouraging and the beginning sucked me in.!

  14. It’s good to see that this one had some well placed humour. Sometimes with books like this it just seems to come out of nowhere and feels really awkward. So happy you loved this one!

  15. Alise (Readers in Wonderland)

    I don’t think I can want this book more, it’s physically impossible! Everything sounds so awesome, especially the action. I may just go out and buy it because I can not wait any longer!

  16. Miss Wisp

    Been hearing SO many good things about this book. I’m very excited to read it.

    Thanks so much for this amazing opportunity!

  17. bookhangovers

    I absolutely Love this book!!!! OMG and so many feels in the beginning!!!! A lot of ugly crying was going on over here, lol!!! Pierce Brown is the sweetest too! So nice to his fans. I was happy to see that this book was on New York Times best sellers list for a couple of weeks 🙂

  18. Your review was spot-on. I’m sure you know by now that I re-blogged your review on both my blogs. I loved, loved, loved this book. I cannot believe this YOUNG man can write this well. Holy sparkling GOLDS! He can surely write. You did an epic job explaining how great Red Rising really is.

  19. BookLady

    What a fascinating book! I am intrigued by your review and have put this book on my TBR list.

  20. Suz Reads

    This book sounds amazing! I love a book that has great characters and makes you feel and from your comments it sounds like this one certainly did! Since you also said it’s one of your favorites so far this year I can’t wait to read it!

  21. Ashfa

    I’ve never read Any adult books yet but this one sounds amazing!! Wow, this books looks really intense. Adding it to my TBR list and I’m going to find out more about that pyramid now. Loved the review!