Red Rising Review – Biggest Disappointment of 2020?

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Let’s be real here: is Red Rising the biggest disappointment of 2020 or am I?

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Summary: “Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so” (Goodreads). 

OKAY! So I should acknowledge that the fact I even read Red Rising in the year of our lord 2020 is an achievement in and of itself. However, comma, I hated it. Well, correction…I hated the last 300 pages of it.

The first 100 pages of Red Rising get a 5 out of 5 from me. I loved the politics, the caste system, the characters, the building of a Gold from a Red, and the world-building/space setting. The rest of Red Rising was disappointing primarily because none of the characters from the beginning reappeared except for Darrow and because we lost all of the world-building to a confined, Hunger Games-esque arena. It’s not even obvious later that it’s set on Mars, which makes the setting seem too irrelevant for my liking.

I still loved Darrow as a character; he’s a fascinating exploration of what power does to a person, especially someone previously disenfranchised. I also do have a surprising soft-spot for Sevro, which shouldn’t be surprising considering all of the Internet is obsessed with him, but whatever. As I read, I found myself liking most the political discussions and quotes about male power. This felt very Lord of the Flies, even though I’ve never actually read it, which contrasted against the power-structure vibes of The Hunger Games.

Honestly, it’s hard to articulate why I didn’t enjoy it when I can say easily that it’s a very well-written and objectively good book. However, once we hit the part where the students are put in this arena competing against each other for the role of primus, I lost interest. One of the things I know about my reading taste is that I struggle to enjoy books with a rich world-building that lose all of it past the introduction. I had the same issue with The Bone Season, which was set in a fascinating world and then moved to a castle where the main character was essentially locked for the rest of the novel.

I feel like Pierce Brown lost the impact of this classist world by shoving all these Golds in an arena and having them fight to the death. It also seemed like a bit of a rip off of The Hunger Games except, somehow, more brutal (which I appreciated).

I’ve been told that I might enjoy Golden Son more because it explores the politics and world more, so I might actually try it (wow!).

Honestly, I expected to love Red Rising. I thought it would be a five star read and I felt so let down by how boring the rest of the novel was. I couldn’t pick apart the characters; there were too many. I trudged through the fight scenes, the descriptions of the houses which will literally never matter again, and the intricate yet boring relationships between each and every character. Also the romance…snore. I much preferred it whenever Darrow was crying about Eo. Oops.

In short, I much preferred the themes of the novel rather than the execution.

But anyway. I might try Golden Son, so stay tuned for that eventually. But otherwise, I’m so sad about this and obviously I still recommend it because I know that it’s a good book and I’m just picky about things that most people aren’t haha. So many people love it! And most people usually find the first 100 pages boring whereas I found it the opposite. So…if you think it looks good, I highly recommend trying it!

-Book Hugger

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