and narrow is the corner of the earth
wherein he dwells. — Marcus Aurelius - ℅ W. Somerset Maugham
"Rise, there are honors for you to take. Rise for glory, for power, for conquest and dominion over lesser men."
I confess to being card carrying, lapel pin wearing, secret handshake performing member of the YA Fiction book-reading club. Some adults see this as a guilty pleasure but not me – good writing is good writing and I’m not one to discriminate against characters just for being younger than I am. As someone who was once a teenager I know for a fact that interesting/bad/good/unforeseen things can happen to anybody. I will admit however, that I’m not into the almost serialized dystopian books with the lone champion who must save humanity. I just don’t really enjoy the premise (at least not in literary form). So, I didn’t read The Hunger Games, I haven’t read Ender’s Game – I just haven’t felt the need to. Then earlier this year I caught wind of Pierce Brown when Buzzfeed posted an article about him. They basically called the new truth in the YA fiction world. I did a little digging (Google) and he kind of reminded me of Kerouac in that he had been traditionally educated, he traveled – well read; he just seemed like a true creative. I was intrigued. So anyway, Red Rising. I honestly didn’t have high hopes of enjoying the story but I was excited to read a new writer.
Page 1. I was hooked.
Here’s how it goes. Darrow is a Red – and Reds are at the bottom of the social color spectrum. They were sent to Mars to mine, centuries before the rest of humanity, to make it livable for future generations. The work is so hard they their life expectancies aren’t very long and so even though our hero is only 16, in his community he is already a man. Darrow works hard to maintain the status quo. He has his family and his work and the knowledge of knowing that what he does will benefit the survival of the human race. Then (SOFT SPOILER) some bad stuff happens – and Darrow finds out that his entire existence is a lie and he can’t do anything about it. I really can’t get into what happens next because any small detail would be giving too much away.
Brown doesn’t hold back. Like all of my favourite YA authors he doesn’t condescend to his reader. Darrow’s story is complex and violent and emotional. I totally had to put my life on hold while I read – I just couldn’t abandon him amid all of the drama. The most engaging part for me was the world that Brown created. While set far into the future it was still totally conceivable because all of the characters, both friend and foe, were so human.
Rather than recommend this book to those who already enjoy dystopian stories with fit teen heroes (you will probably already have read this) – I am recommending this book to readers who pay close attention to the civil unrest in the Middle East, or those who hold an acute aversion to social injustice. Even those who are students of the Civil Rights movements in the US and around the world will find something inspiring in Red Rising.
I’m already looking forward to part two of the series Golden Son, which is due to be released in January of next year. Happy reading fellow bibliophiles!