Last night I finished reading RED RISING, a book I was a bit torn about starting. I was prejudiced, I will admit. When I read the words “dystopian,” and “movie deal,” and “reminiscent of HUNGER GAMES”…well, I’m tired of it, to be frank. I’m tired of people grabbing onto what’s hot and creating second-rate replicas of it. So I went into this book a little jaded.
Well, I was more or less right as far as premise goes. It is VERY reminiscent of HUNGER GAMES, and adult fans of that series and more mature younger reader would enjoy that aspect of it. The premise is a “game” where teenagers are at war with one another. Houses have castles and must conquer each other until there is a winning house and in that winning house, there is a Primus who is above them all.
The book is set on Mars, but really, I think it could be set anywhere. There was nothing really different about the Mars of the future from the Earth we are on now. It’s been terraformed. The main character, Darrow, starts off as a “Red,” one of the lower castes of people who live underground and dig for resources. They are under the impression–indeed, have been brainwashed into believing–that their work is making the terraforming of Mars possible. They don’t know it has already been done. Through a series of tragic events (some could call them plot devices 😉 ), Darrow is “reborn” as a Gold, the highest caste on Mars, so that he can infiltrate and start a revolution. RED RISING chronicles Darrow’s first steps to rising through the ranks of Mars’s social hierarchy.
I’m going to get pretty damned nit-picky here for a moment–which is a compliment, because I think the book can stand up to the test. I read Mr. Brown’s bio on the back jacket. This is a guy very familiar with TV/movies and success. He knows his stuff. He knew when writing this book what would work, and he implemented it. As a writer, I could recognize why he did pretty much everything he did throughout the book. Conflict built upon conflict, and when something could go wrong, it did go wrong (though there were a couple exceptions). While I enjoyed reading the book, and I cared about the characters, a lot felt calculated. Once I cracked the code of the book, things that I think were supposed to be surprises weren’t (though aspects still were unknown; it was just enough to know that something wasn’t right, but I never had one of those OH MY GOD! moments that I love in a book). I don’t think that normal readers would get this, however. I tend to be a very analytical reader.
All that being said, I did enjoy reading this book, and found it kept my interest throughout. I will definitely be picking up the next book of the series, to learn more about the things that were kind of left up in the air and unanswered in this one. It’s fast paced and action packed, well written, and it really has you rooting for Darrow and his people. I can’t wait to learn more about the Sons of Ares, and how everything ties together. I thought this was a very impressive debut novel, and when all is said and done, does deserve some hype.