Friday, 8 April 2016

Red Rising


Book Title: Red Rising
Author: Pierce Brown
Series: Red Rising #1
Date Started: March 28th 2016
Date Completed: April 8th 2016
Genres: Dystopian, Action
Quality Rating: Four Stars
Enjoyment Rating: Three Star
Final Rating: Four stars

Red Rising wasn't nearly as original as I was expecting, but at the same time I'm still conflicted because it was a good book. At one point I thought it was that the world and story were brilliantly established but the characters werent puling through, but I'm not so sure anymore. Overall, I was interested, but I didn't care what happened.

I'm still not sure where I stand with Brown's writing: the action felt a bit condensed and heavy without saying much, but was definitely exciting; there isn't much dialogue thinking back on it, but what was there felt reasonably natural; the narration takes up most of the book but that in itself isn't too boring and actually gives relevant information to the story as opposed to rambling about something that only has meaning for the author. But the fact that most of the written skill was around explaining the military manoeuvres and the gory ways each leader was rising to the top but without any real meaning, it felt a little bit of a big boys game version of Lord of the Flies without much consideration on the other elements making up the book to back it up. It wasn't bad - Brown surprised me with his fluency - but I think it focused on some strange areas given the overarching story it was going to tell.

Red Rising is arguably built on its politics and social ideas. I generally love these kinds of books, and after pushing the unavoidable comparisons to every other Young Adult dystopian out there from my head (primarily The Hunger Games, Divergent, Uglies etc), I found a few new things in the wold building. Having said that, I don't quite understand the reasoning of quite a few methods used by this government - and the class/race system especially confused me. The Golds WERE different to the other class/races below them; it takes multiple surgeries to become one of them, so what was the moral point? I feel like there should be a social context we can relate to in all this, but I can't find the right angle for it. You can't say that all the races are the same, because they're practically different species here, but I can't see how it's implied that Reds are just as valuable as Golds: it's almost like Brown was confirming the Gold hierarchy beliefs.
This book also relies quite a bit on little revelations scattered throughout the whole thing - partially to show how clever Darrow is, but also to show how corrupt the system is. But I felt like some of these were just for the author, and there was no way the reader would've seen them coming or worked them out. Maybe I was really detached so didn't pick up the hints, but either way feeling like I wasn't really going to be given a chance to think ahead of the characters pushed me even further from the story because it felt like I was just an observers, as opposed to being able to problem-solve some stuff myself.
After all my issues with Red Rising, I still got completely immersed in the ending. You definitely get caught up in it and forget what's really going on behind all the scheming and games, so the resolution of the story on its own is almost a surprise - even more so when you remember what Darrow is building up to in the trilogy as a whole. Regardless of how hard I found it to get into, I really want to know where it goes from here.

The characters in Red Rising don't seem as strong or consistent as anything else (especially female roles - I was really disappointed by those actually). There just doesn't seem to be much substance under anyone, and even if there was Brown isn't one to keep people around the main plot line for long. I understand that people fall in and out of power (it was a good element of the story), but it felt like it was there partly to cover them randomly disappearing in the writing because the timing of a lot of them just didn't make sense given the circumstances. Really, I'm just frustrated because there was a lot of potential in some of those characters, but everything was sacrificed for Darrow.
Darrow himself was a mediocre hero at best unfortunately. He's a great leader, and incredibly important, but as a main protagonist he's a bit bland - he's very sure of himself a lot of the time, and rightly so. And while it's nice to have a protagonist who knows what they're doing, it makes for a bit of a slow story. The big thing with Red Rising is also the fact that Darrow is literally the only character who's consistently around, because we have to be inside his head. But no one else is around beside him consistently, and while this keeps things changing, I honestly wanted to see some more development from people who weren't as confident or skilled as Darrow. Darrow nailed the whole thing - now I want to see people mess up and how they deal with it.

Honestly, I didn't enjoy the first part of this book at all, but it's really important to set everything up. While I don't think books that sacrifice their openings to world build are skilfully written, I admit that when things kicked off it was much better knowing all the foundations to really understand what was happening and why it mattered. Having said that, there was something missing from keeping me glued to the story. All the way through I found myself falling in and out of interest and I'm still not sure why - I just know it definitely made it harder for me to feel engaged in the story.

I'm eager to see what happens next to Darrow; it feels like one of those stories that almost goes into a whole different world in each book, but I'm wary of all the hype surrounding the rest of the series. Red Rising wasn't what I was hoping for, but once I'd accepted that the little inconsistencies and strange orderings of the world I was able to find some good entertainment for the last hundred pages that was eventually enough to make me want more.

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