Wednesday 14 January 2015

Book Review and Discussion: Red Rising by Pierce Brown *Spoiler-Free*

     Title: Red Rising
     Author: Pierce Brown
     Publisher: Del Ray (Random House)
     Published: January 28th 2014
     Pages: 380

Goodreads Synopsis:

The Earth is dying. Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it. The Reds are humanity's last hope.

Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it's all a lie. That Mars has been habitable - and inhabited - for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down on Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought. 

Until the day that Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside. But the command school is a battlefield - and Darrow isn't the only student with an agenda.

How can one possibly describe in words the absolute genius of this book? No matter how hard I try I know this review will not do this book justice. I finished this book several days ago now and I still cannot stop thinking about it. I think this pretty much sums up my feelings about this book:

If I had to describe this book in one word it would be clever. This book is just so darn clever, I think Brown might actually be a genius. I have only ever really thought that about one other author, and that was Brandon Sanderson. If you know me, you know I love Sanderson but now I have found someone to rival him and that is Pierce Brown, a debut author no less. 

So, you are probably wondering what I thought was clever about this book. I am going to start with the world-building because well, it was out of this world (wow, I am so punny!). The world-building in this story is so original, exciting, vivid and also highly complex. At the beginning I felt a little too stupid to read this book because the world was so complex and there were a lot of words like terraforming and several other space-related activities and words that went right over my head. This had me mega confused for a while, I won't lie, but I soon got into it and started to understand the world a whole lot better. I wouldn't change this in the book as I really enjoy complex and well thought out worlds. This book is based in outer space but it is not like any other sci-fi book I have read. The explanation and reasoning behind every aspect of the world is quite clear and it doesn't take hundreds of pages to set up the world, like many high fantasy novel. Even though the world is technically not realistic, I couldn't help but feel that it could be. See what I mean by clever yet?

My favourite aspect about this book was the wonderful characters throughout the entire novel. The amount of unique, multi-dimensional and dynamic characters in this book is fantastic. The connection I felt with the characters surpass any that I have ever read before. A character who I may have only met for a couple of pages had me bawling like a baby and they were only a minor character...that really says it all. This story had a considerable amount of characters that all played an important role in the story. Brown's ability to create round, dynamic characters far surpasses any author that I have ever read. There was no character in this story that I met (and you meet a lot of characters in this story) that was stereotypical or flat, they all added something different to the plot line and I found myself rooting for so many of them. I was way too attached to a copious amount of these characters which had me on the edge of my seat for the whole book as I didn't know if any of them would live or die. I could not predict the plot twists which had me totally on edge, which is exactly what I look for in a book.

 Not only was there a wide range of characters in, but the character development of each one was incredible. The most obvious is, of course, the protaganist, Darrow, who goes from zero to hero. But what I really enjoyed about Darrow's character is that while he does become a "hero", he is not your typical hero. There are plenty of times in the book where I wanted to hit him, make him do more. He is far from perfect and that is the whole point. He is an impulsive and incredibly clever character, but he is also very real. Too often books involve heroes who would leap through fire and battle hundreds of soldiers alone to save people they don't even know, but is this realistic? Of course it is not. Darrow, a great deal of the time, is not the real hero type, he would have been happy out slaving away as a Red only that his wife wanted more. Darrow doesn't have the ambition that Eo had but throughout the novel Darrow's character grows, where he once simply followed others orders he now commands them. Darrow becomes a hero to some, but he is far from perfect.

 It is not only Darrow who grows throughout the novel but several more minor characters as well. I hated Tactus at first, he is a pretty despicable character, but I found myself having a respect for his talent and abilities, even though he is not the most pleasant of people. The closer Darrow came to these people the more I, as a reader, came to understand them. My favourite character by far though was Sevro. Maybe it was his connection with the wolves or perhaps his humour, Sevro could do no wrong in my eyes. Sevro is one of those characters that at the beginning you think you will never like, but he continued to surprise me throughout the book and I came to love him more and more as the story went on. I, also really enjoyed Pax. Pax was the comedy character but even in playing such a seemingly one-dimensional, supporting role, he was much more than that. I could talk forever about each character and their growth throughout the novel but I think you may already get the gist. The characters and the character development was spot on, with one exception: the female characters.

 The female characters really let this book down big time. I did not feel the same connection with the female characters as I did with the male characters. The only exception of this is Eo. Eo is the beginning, middle and end for Darrow. She is the reason he grows from a man willing to slave under others to a man who fights for freedom. Eo is strong and brave where Darrow is weak and unambitious. She is by far my favourite female character in the book and I just wish there were more like her.

 While I feel like Brown gave me so many male characters to love (even ones that I probably shouldn't love), he really let me down when it came to the female characters. I found that the majority of them fit into two main categories: strong, evil bitches OR weak, pathetic girls, with a few exceptions.

 Gold's in Red Rising are the best of the best, the cream of the crop, and the ones that have gotten passed the passage are pretty much at the apex of these extraordinary beings. This would make you think that there were a hell of a lot of bad ass women to root for in this story...there wasn't. There, in fact, were very, very few. Antonia, Cassandra, Mustang, Lilath and the Howlers Thistle and Pebble are the only ones I can really think of. That sounds like a substantial amount of bad-ass female characters in one 380 page book, however, for every one of these characters there was another five who were weak and, often times, soft. This didn't make sense to me as these were meant to be fierce competitors but throughout the story Brown details women being conquered by men. One such example is the rapings. If these were incredibly strong women, why could they not defend themselves? Another example is during a duel where Roque feels the need to take Lea and Quinn away as they are openly upset. Am...sorry, but how are you going to be a Peerless Scarred if you are that soft and emotional? Then there are the women who are actually quite capable fighters. These women are in complete contrast to Lea, Quinn and the others; they are shown to be cold-hearted and down right evil. This in a way is what Darrow and other revolutionaries think Golds to be, but while the male Gold's who are quite horrible are given a more human face, the women are not. I did quite like the Howlers, but more so as a group rather than individually. 

 I did  feel a really strong connection with a great deal of the male characters like Sevro, Pax, Roque, even Cassius and Tactus (is that weird that I cared about them?), but I just did not have that same connection with the female characters. Mustang, was a far more dimensional female character, but even then I wasn't particularly fond of her character.If there was one thing I wish Brown had done differently it would be his female characters, and in fact, it was the only problem I really had with this story.

When I say a book gave me all the feels, I usually just mean that the book made me cry. This book though, IT GAVE ME ALL THE FEELS. Like, all of them. I was crying, I was laughing, I was cheering, I was cursing...I was all over the place. Not even joking, I put this book down so many times to just bask in the awesomeness of the story.

I understand how this story is compared to the likes of the Hunger Games, there was one point in the story that I really saw some similarities between the two. I would argue, however, that Red Rising is a far superior book and that is coming from a huge Hunger Games fan. I also really enjoyed the allusion to Greek mythology as I find this to be a fascinating subject.

This book took me quite a long time read even though it was only 380 pages long. Now I did happen to be on holiday in Edinburgh for a time while reading this and that seriously cut down my reading time. However, the main reason it took so long was due to the intensity of the book. This book is INTENSE. Oh and quite violent. If you don't like intense, complex books which are filled with action-packed, graphic violence then....WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? - okay, I kid (kind of), but you will more then likely really not like this book. However, if you are all about non-stop action, mind -blowing plot twists, clever battle strategies, unique, complex world-building and incredible multi-dimensional and dynamic characters then READ THIS BOOK NOW.

Wow. I raved quite a bit there didn't I?...Sorry about that.

Unsurprisingly, I give this book:

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