After reading Station Eleven (review to come) and loving it – I was recommended Red Rising. The book – set on Mars – follows Darrow (a boy born to the lowest red mining class) as he infiltrates the gold ruling class to take down the classist color system and fulfill the dream that his wife, Eo, held of “breaking the chains” and creating equality throughout the galaxy. I was looking for an interesting summer book that I could languidly read while enjoying the sunshine and escaping the heat from the dog days of summer. My plan was upended. I couldn’t put the book down and ended up reading it in under a week – staying up WAY past my designated big girl bedtime because I just HAD to know what happened. However, at the end of my reading tear I couldn’t decide my overall feelings about the book. Did I like it? Did the protagonist garner my support? Was it too violent? Did they treat enslavement and death too flippantly? Unclear to all of these. To describe the book, I would say it is a backwards hunger games where instead of sending the poor and destitute to their deaths in a game of power, Red Rising sends the elite and powerful into a carved out fake world to fight for glory amidst a universe distinguished by color. Unique plot twist to say the least. The book also interweaves themes of Games of Thrones (houses and family ties are woven throughout), as well as The Expanse (planetary wars). With all of these literary devices floating around, the book fails to land any one of them well. Is the book about a revolution (enslaved overthrowing master)? Is it about loyalty (to friends, to family, to wives)? Is it about a man overcoming his demons? Yes, to all of these and this makes the book a bit frantic – but it is engaging.
- Read it? Yes, it is absorbing. I wouldn’t put this book in the love category, but it holds your attention (maybe a bit too much given the content) and keeps you rooting for Darrow (even if you hate his personality at times). Full disclosure – after years of reading sci-fi and fantasy I have discovered that male protagonists hold less of my support. Men just tend to be brash and uncaring in stories – something with which I can’t identify. I also do want to read the sequels to find out what happens in the larger picture (but I am not desperate for the sequels either – the book wraps up pretty well at the end of book 1).
- Is this a great book for nerdy women? Middling. It is an engaging read and it definitely held my attention, but it is dark and violent and it treats rape, murder and cannibalism [?!?] a bit impertinently.
- Items Loved? I really liked how they made none of the women damsels in distresses (in fact the leader of the entire galaxy is a woman – Octavia au lune), women hold their own in this book. I also really liked how the question of inherent evil and good continues to be probed – who is good? Who is evil? What actions are good and what are evil? How do we internalize our actions? I also really appreciated the witty banter and the final twist (SPOILER) of taking down the teachers! Rebellion in its true form.
- Items Questioned? Was the rape and cannibalism necessary? No. I also was a bit irked that Darrow never consistently had a sidekick. His friends, loyalties and love seemed to be constantly changing. The author also didn’t fully explore why Darrow was so committed [?!?] to Eo. That relationship needed to be developed a bit more – also why is the song important? ANSWERS PIERCE!
- Anything else? WHY DID YOU KILL PAX PIERCE?!? WHY!!!