Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Review of the Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown

Shocking, violent, as heated as the current political climate, Pierce Brown's Red Rising trilogy will keep you burning through its pages.  ♦ 
I’d never heard of the Red Rising trilogy until a friend mentioned it to me. She and I were on the subject of what we’d been reading lately, and she said she’d re-read the first book in this series six times. I thought if something was that good, it must be worth a shot, and I was intrigued by her description of the book, which she said was along the lines of The Hunger Games, with a dystopian vibe due to a controlling government and plenty of rampant bloodshed.
   I read the first book in the series, Red Rising, in two days. (I would have finished it sooner, but it was so good that I wanted to make it last.) I then got the second book, Golden Son, and finished that in about the same time. After that book crushed my heart like the beautiful, infuriating little masterpiece it is, I borrowed the third book. Morning Star, from my friend. This one squashed a bit of my soul when I realized I'd finished one of the greatest book series I’d ever read. All in all, I had ripped through the series in little over a week, and I already wanted more.
   Luckily, the incredible author of the books, Pierce Brown, seems more like a writing machine than an actual human. Next year, Brown will be releasing a follow-up trilogy further expanding the world he has already created. Additionally, he is working on a prequel to the original series in graphic novel form and penning a screenplay of Red Rising for Universal. Someone may be slipping some Red Bull into his drinks, or maybe he injects it through an IV. Either way, his many fans are happy with the rapid and prolific production, as shown in the quick ascent of his books on bestseller lists. His first novel debuted at No. 20 on the New York Times Best Seller list, the second hit No. 6, and the final book shot straight to No. 1.
  The plot of the trilogy, which is set several hundred years in humanity’s future, centers on a young man named Darrow. one of the brightest talents in his mining colony of Lykos, located on Mars. His day job is that of a “Helldiver,” one who operates the gargantuan drills made for the mining of precious Helium-3, an element necessary for terraforming new planets; humanity has spread across the solar system, finding homes on most of the planets and their larger moons.
  In this futuristic society, people are not separated by religion, ethnicity, or nationality, but rather by Color. The Gold class is the ruling elite and held in esteem above all others; Greys are the police, Silvers are the financiers, and Whites are the clergy, to name a few. You can only be born to your Color, which is not just a title but also refers to physiological and anatomical differences such as height, bone density, and vision capabilities. The Color differences in this societal hierarchy demonstrate how societal divisions (i.e. racism, sexism, gender, etc.) have morphed over the centuries in this fictional landscape.
   Personally, I found this to be one of the best parts of the books. Though prejudice still exists, the only barrier the people in this world face are the Color-caste they are born into; such prejudices as those against women, sexual orientations, or racism based on ethnicity or nationality are no longer considerations. There are never any assumptions that a woman is lesser than a man, or any notions that being gay or trans would in any way effect your social standing. So, who rules this planet-spanning civilization? A woman. The most feared and capable warrior of all the planets? A woman. The wealthiest person in the entire solar system? A gay man.
   This is the trilogy’s greatest message: no matter the barriers that society inflicts upon you, or those you are born to, you can always rise above them.
   Taking a closer look at Darrow, he and his people (the Reds) are in the lowest caste of society, basically slaves for the Golds and other Colors. After he suffers a great tragedy, Darrow is taken in by the Sons of Ares, a rebel group fighting the tyranny of the society. However, he isn’t certain about them until they reveal the truth—that Mars has already been terraformed, rendering his class’ work pointless.
  Shocked at the lies he’s been fed his whole life, Darrow joins the Sons and accepts their mission for him— to infiltrate the Gold class. After being transformed into one of the rulers of society, Darrow is sent to the Institute, a proving ground for the best of the Golds.
   Darrow’s adventures at the Institute are the focus of the first novel and resemble novels like Hunger Games or the film Battle Royale, in which the youth must battle it out, largely to the death, to establish their dominance and earn victory. The young Golden elite do this in a fight for supremacy, forming and breaking alliances. to come out on top and secure their futures, and the blood quickly starts to flow. Brown certainly is not averse to gore and violence, so if that is not to your taste, you may want to stay away.
   Despite the hardships he faces, Darrow is able to navigate his way through the Institute while learning about leadership and warfare. However, in everyday Golden society it is more important to know how to talk your way out of a problem, as Darrow discovers in the second novel. He soon adapts and pits enemy against enemy to create a destructive civil war. All the while, he and the reader are questioning what kind of person he is, if he can so easily turn his back on the Golds he befriended in the Institute. Not to mention, he worries about how they will react when they find out what he really is.
   Even though the basic plot may mirror other works, the manner in which Brown approaches it is not only refreshing but shocking. He doesn’t wrap anything up nicely in a bow but rather presents the story much like life is: complicated, messy. He is similar to George R.R. Martin in his tendency to kill off beloved characters, and throughout the series, the devastation of war is never held back, as the trilogy is written in the first-person, present perspective. The reader experiences everything first-hand with the characters, which, along with the blistering pace, leads to a very intense read.
  The violent nature of the books is juxtaposed with beautiful writing that creates startling imagery and incredibly well-formed characters who break all molds that came before them. Darrow is a good example, as he’s not the typical uber-masculine hero. For example, in the second novel, he admits to his love interest that he probably cries more than she does. And she is no damsel in distress but a warrior and strategist in her own right, exemplifying the kind of strong female characters the series is rife with.
   The Red Rising trilogy is filled with shocking violence and mayhem, yet it always manages to retain its heart. Darrow is the classic underdog, coming from the literal pits of slavery to overcoming the strongest empire in human history. If that’s not empowering, I don’t know what is. It’s a story of disenfranchisement and power, and how political machinations link the two. With this series, Brown serves up a contemplative and original piece that will always keep the reader waiting anxiously for what’s around the corner.
Read Megan Mooney's "An Interview with Pierce Brown" here.
  • About the Author
    Megan Mooney is currently a junior at Miami University majoring in Creative Writing. She loves reading books and drinking coffee. She also loves hanging out with friends who are steaming hot and wrapped in a portable to-go cup. No, wait, that’s just more coffee. She doesn’t have a problem.

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