ELEANOR TAYLOR | REPEAT OFFENDERS
Hey besties, we need to talk about Pierce Brown. Pierce Brown has written one series of books; the Red Rising Series and I think they deserve more attention. A sci-fi fantasy series set in space where a superhuman elite class rule from the Moon over the rest of space. Humanity is organised via a sort of caste system. There are several groups classified by colour and planet of origin. The Golds are the ruling class, Silvers take care of finances, Blues pilot spaceships, Violets are the arts and entertainment class, Reds are at the bottom of the totem pole and are effectively slaves forced to mine, while Browns are servants. There are many more groups in this society, every necessary function for a space empire is taken care of and assigned from birth.
The characterisation of this world is sensational. In my experience as a Sci-Fi nerd, info-dumping is pretty standard in the genre. I have sort of just accepted that when authors are inventing new worlds based on unfamiliar technology, mythology and social organisation they need to explain what the hell is going on. The result of this is that authors are often guilty of info-dumping which for the uninitiated is what it sounds like; when authors straight up just tell you what is going on in what is often too much detail. In theory, there is nothing wrong with authors giving you a comprehensive run down but in practice it often turns out to be pages of useless information, so much of it in fact that it becomes difficult to take in and turns out to be boring and redundant. The Hunger Games is one of many books guilty of this. Somehow, Pierce Brown perfectly follows the age old adage “show don’t tell” because this book gets it so right. From the beginning of Red Rising, the reader is learning information about the world they are visiting in easily digestible bite size chunks. It is a masterclass in how to properly contextualise a story and entices the reader to keep going. Right from the first page, we learn that our lead Darrow has experienced brutality from a group called the Golds. At this point we don’t know anything about them because it is not super relevant and it drives you forward. You know the Golds are evil and violent, who exactly are they? What is their role? And then as the story unfolds, you get enough information to fill you in — but not enough to overwhelm and confuse you.
The series follows Darrow, a Red living underground on Mars, where he has been indoctrinated to believe that his role mining helium-3 is integral to the survival of the Empire and that his civilisation will not survive life above ground without it. He works as a Helldiver by the time he is 16, controlling the mining drills. After discovering that humanity is prosperous above ground living in sprawling technologically advanced cities across the planets and that Reds are relatively unimportant, Darrow joins the Sons of Ares; a resistance group dedicated to overthrowing the ruling class. From there, he is effectively transformed into a new person (literally he gets like an extra metre added to his height and changes his face) and infiltrates the Institution; an Elite academy for Golds where they are forced to fight against each other in a high stakes war game which culls their population til only the strongest leaders remain. This is where people tend to introduce Hunger Games comparisons and I can see why. There are several commonalities between the Hunger Games and Red Rising. Both of these series tackle class issues and societies that are predicated on the subjugation of its’ members, they both follow underdog teenage main characters and their revolutionary efforts, and of course Red Rising features a competition where they all fight to the death and the winners become heroes. Having read both the Hunger Games and Red Rising I will admit there are some superficial similarities but without spoiling anything I can assure you that both series go in very different directions and they both have entirely different settings.
Furthermore, Red Rising is definitely an adult series that is much more graphically violent and disturbing than the Hunger Games. This series takes its critiques of capitalism and imperialism to the next level and gets incredibly dark at times. The Hunger Games is a good series, but Red Rising exists in a class of its own and is the perfect adult dystopian novel. I read these books when I was 17 and now at 20 have gone through a re-read because a new addition is slated for release. And honestly, it held up insanely well and I fell in love with it all over again. I enjoyed the Hunger Games and it will always hold a special place in my heart but its writing style and world-building pale in comparison to the quality of Red Rising.
I generally dislike pitting books against each other, but Red Rising is better than most books and anyone who lets first glance similarities with the Hunger Games prevent them from reading it is seriously missing out. At the same time, if you loved the Hunger Games then you would probably enjoy Red Rising.
The characters in Red Rising are nuanced and Darrow is an interesting and flawed individual who goes through tremendous growth. The tea is that I hate reading about teenagers, I personally find them boring and never relate very much to them. Darrow does not spend long as a 16 year old in Red Rising and ages throughout the series. For example in Dark Age, the fifth book he is in his thirties. Because of this it really feels as though you follow all the main parts of his life and see him grow into himself which is very satisfying and creates a real connection with him. He goes from being a scrawny naive kid to a borderline psychopathic murderous hunk by the end of the first book and if you follow the series, his values change, his perspective on revolution changes and he makes some very morally questionable choices. The side characters are so well written and I have absolutely cried over them. From his introduction you know Sevro is bonkers and he goes on to play a crucial role in the series. Darrow’s companions, the Howlers are a memorable cast of misfits who all bring something different to the story. The villains in this series are very hateable and also further down the line, more understandable.
If you are looking for a series to delve into to escape the real world which has gone to shit lately, I cannot recommend the Red Rising series enough and I am so excited to see where it goes in the final book.