Book Review – Red Rising

“Man cannot be freed by the same injustice that enslaved it.” ― Pierce Brown, Red Rising

my thanks go to the Orang-Utan Librarian (go here to visit this excellent blog) for drawing my attention to this book. I probably would not have got hold of it otherwise and would have missed out on a treat.

set in the far future where the people of the solar system are in the grip of a rigid caste system, this is the story of Darrow, one of the Reds who slave in the mines beneath the surface of Mars, and his quest to overthrow the Golds, the rulers of the worlds. Driven by rage and a thirst for revenge he vows to destroy them all, only to find that they, and all the other colours, are just as trapped as his own people.

Red Rising is the best Science Fiction I have read in a long time. Reading it made me feel that I had rediscovered my love for the genre, and yet at the same time genre is almost irrelevant when a book is as good as this. Yes there are hints of other things here, I described it to my daughter as The Illiad crossed with The Hunger Games with a fair bit of Percy Jackson but that doesn’t do it justice, it feels original. The thing that struck me most was the poetic quality, the moment when Darrow first sees the surface of Mars sticks in my mind, reminiscent of a moment from a Philip K. Dick novel.

when I told my daughter I had read it she said “But that’s in my Christmas list!”, if you haven’t read it then Red Rising should probably be on yours.

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What’s so great about Dystopia?

   In my previous post I referred to the world of The Hunger Games as Dystopian, meaning a place that is terrifying, evil and generally not nice. It’s not the only franchise that uses such a setting, see the Maze Runner and the Divergent series to name but two. But why are we so fascinated by such a dark vision of society?

The standard answer is that while Utopia (a good and safe world) might be a nice place to bring up the kids it is actually pretty dull. We want excitement from stories and that requires danger. Our heroes and heroines need to overcome peril and defeat their enemies, preferably against the odds and in the nick of time. Fair enough.

But maybe there is more sinister reason.

Perhaps there is something in human nature that wants chaos, because chaos brings opportunity. Maybe we value ‘winning’ more than happiness, maybe what we all really want is a little bit of mayhem. I realise this is a cynical point of view but look around the world at the moment. War in Syria, terror in Europe, you’ve got to admit I’ve got a point.

Personally the thing I fear most is boredom.

Although being torn apart by a bunch of flesh eating mutants comes a close second.

Either way the message for a writer is this. Give your characters a hard time. Keep them on their toes. Put them in danger. Make your story exciting.

  Well I never really planned to review stuff but sometimes you just feel the need!

  I watched both the Mockingjay films this weekend, first one at home on Amazon Prime and the second the next day at the cinema. They didn’t disappoint. I have found all of the films scarily believable, not to mention seat-grabbingly tense. For me the series succeeds for two main reasons: firstly the characters are complex and flawed, even the heroine, Katniss, isn’t just ‘good’; secondly the distopian world of the Hunger Games is close enough to our own that it feels recogniseably real and therefore so much more terrifying.  
I would also like to mention ‘Yellow Flicker Beat’ by Lorde (Mockingjay part 1), I love a great song over the end credits.