Red Rising

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This one is still haunting me.

Quite honestly I’m still not sure how I feel about Red Rising but the story seems to have stuck itself to the inside of my skull a little like peanut butter  (I don’t always know how I feel about peanut butter either) So I am gonna consider that a win for the author.

Red Rising is one of those books I saw all over the blogoshpere, on Goodreads, Amazon etc. People seemed to have very strong feelings about it; I read blogs and reviews  that gave it 16 stars and threatened to dip it in gold (much Like Darrow…*Wink*) right along with those who thought the book was 382 pages of preachy, violent, boring hooey.

Wow! I thought. If there’s one thing I love almost as much as a book that sends me spiraling into an obsessive paperclip folding tizzy it’s a book readers are passionate about. I may have mentioned this before but I have been known to stop people on the bus, in waiting rooms, coffee shops, restaurants and elevators and ask them what they are reading . Basically, I love talking about books and I LOVE a book worth talking about.

And then you’ve got to factor in that Red Rising is being compared to Ender’s Game and Hunger Games which are pretty much two of my favorite books. like. ever.

That was probably what got me. Those comparisons. While it’s true they were the reason I downloaded Red Rising to my Ipad faster than you can say $10.65  It’s also true that I spent the first half of the book waiting to love it the way I loved those books. And I just…didn’t.

Perhaps it was because both Ender’s Game and Hunger Games are classified under Young Adult Fiction and Red Rising is not. (although the main character is still a sixteen year old trying to save the world) There is just something about well written young adult literature that speaks to me. I can’t quite put my finger on why but I suspect that a writer who writes with a younger audience in mind feels a certain weight of responsibility when constructing the message they are conveying to their readers. As a result topics like children fighting to the death, rape, self sacrifice and loss of innocence are written in such a way that the reader truly feels the gravity of those subjects. I will never forget putting down Ender’s Game and feeling totally desolate. It was one of the most subtly heartbreaking stories I had ever read and the funny thing was that I had no idea how sad I was until it was over and I just wanted to drink a bottle of wine and weep over Ender’s childhood being ripped away and his soul torn to shreds. (Speaker for the Dead was just as amazing btw and that’s not YA  I would have been satisfied if I hadn’t gone on to read Xenocide but I did and it ruined my life…but that’s a story for another blog)

Red Rising had a lot of the same themes but I felt it lacked some of the emotional depth.  The one thing that almost all discussions about this book seem to agree on is that it gets off to a slow start. Man does it ever! It took me two days to get through the first few chapters (unheard of for me) and it wasn’t until I was more than half way through that I really began to care about Darrow (or anyone).  After that though, I couldn’t put it down.

My main issue with this book was the first 20% and more specifically Eo. I could have killed Eo myself. Ok…. that is super harsh, she made me really angry though. I understand that the author was trying to give Darrow a damn good reason to be the leader of an uprising and all that jazz but Eo’s death was just weak. She came off as incredibly self righteous and just plain selfish. If the author needed her to be a martyr worth carrying like a banner into battle then he needed to give her a better reason to die OR make her death devastatingly senseless. As it was, she gave a slightly preachy postcoital speech about “living for more” and then as soon as they found themselves in a spot of trouble decided that she might as well give up the ghost and hope that Darrow would do something worthwhile with his grief…. I mean COME ON!!!!!  Sigh.

Anyway… After that debacle Darrow is plucked from the belly of the planet and chosen to be the messiah of his people (Brown actually says this). After a deliciously graphic chapter of horrifying surgical procedures Darrow is remade into a Gold and shipped off to the 76th annual Hunger Games. Not really but I DID see why people are making comparisons.

Once Darrow infiltrates the Golds the whole book was a lot more enjoyable for me. Suddenly the stakes were always very high and every single character was fascinating. I was squirming in my reading chair during every scene with Cassius after The Passage and went from despising Titus to feeling heartbroken over him in a hot second.  By the time Darrow was excommunicated from castle Mars and left to fight his way back from the brink of defeat with his rag tag army of fantastic characters I was a fully invested reader.  I respect the fact that Darrow was a fallible hero who made monumental mistakes and experienced character growth because of them.

So. Where did I stand by the end of the book? Well, like I said something about it haunted me. I am fascinated to see where it will go and how Darrow will handle trying to destroy a whole society of people even now that he knows that many of them are ignorant rather than evil. (Which is a fascinating discussion in it’s own right….ignorance breeds evil but how can we condemn each individual when they have been indoctrinated into a culture of bias?).

I suspect that this will be the kind of series that gets better as it goes. While I probably won’t be re-reading it a million and one times before the next book comes out I would absolutely recommend it to people who enjoy Dystopia or Scifi or who are looking for a thought provoking read or a break from YA romance.

And of course if I saw someone on the elevator with it I would stop them like the crazy person I am and strike up a conversation…. you meet the coolest people on elevators sometimes!

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