This is the longer, less censored, more spoiled review of Red Rising. If you don’t want any spoilers but still want to know why Red Rising is a bad book you can go here.
Red Rising is what happened when Pierce Brown read The Hunger Games and thought to himself, I like this but I hate that its hero is a woman. The bulk of the book is set in a plot and setting exactly like The Hunger Games, children killing each other in a weird battle because… class war or whatever. The different part is that in Red Rising all the ones doing the fighting are actually the higher class, the golds, because they need to prove themselves the top 1% and anything lower than that should die.
Our “hero” Darrow is a Red, the lowest class that doesn’t even know there’s a war to be fought because they are trapped underground in order to do the mining that keeps the society above afloat. Darrow is 16 and his child bride wife Eo is 14. She’s figured out that there must be more that they should fight for and she tells him that he should want to fight for it too. And is then instantly executed because her only purpose in life is to light a fire under the male protagonist’s ass. See fridging. Darrow’s response to this is to kill himself because he’s a weak little punk who had a childhood marriage for two whole years and thinks he couldn’t go on after losing her, he also has impulse control issues. He’s brought back from the grave Jesus style by two mentors who never appear again later in the book. They tell him he’s the chosen one and they’re gonna transform him into a Gold so he can take down the establishment. Why him? Who knows. Why can’t they do it? Cause chosen one. Darrow undergoes years of surgery and social education to be able to pass as an elite Gold. He needs to pass a test to get into the school that will start his journey to military leader. Darrow has a secret weapon, he has a real good brain. How does he prove that and wow his mentors? By solving a rubik’s cube of course! The number one test for intelligence, a puzzle from the 1980s. Now Darrow passes his test with flying colors and is admitted to the school where he promptly has to murder a fellow student because 50% of them are immediately culled in order to have the only students present be ones capable of killing a child with their bare hands. Now it’s The Hunger Games for 250 pages, kids kill each other, war tactics, alliances, blah blah. Fast forward to the end where we get about 20 surprise twists in a row. Darrow’s lady crush alliance is sister to his enemy! Someone who died is actually alive! The conspiracy goes deeper than you ever imagined! Oh my! End book one with set up for book two that I will not read cause I don’t have that kind of hate reading time in my life anymore.
The science and physics here in this sci fi novel are iffy at best. Gravity is inconsistent and low gravity is used as a convenience when the plot needs it. The author basically came up with the imagery of hanging someone in low gravity and needing their loved ones to pull them down for a more merciful death and then just ran with it. It’s an interesting thought, the only one this book has, but it’s so impractical and ludicrous in practice that it’s laughable when you actually think about it being implemented. Additionally, the book doesn’t develop a strong foundation of what technology is like in this future world so random things just pop up whenever they’re useful. At one point it is mentioned that some Golds have wings, is that a surgical or evolutionary thing? Don’t know, doesn’t matter cause it never comes up again. Many points and characters in this book are mentioned once and then abandoned.
The author is bad at world building and creating. He is so focused on stealing from other books and using cliches that he never stops to think that his book makes no sense. We have our chosen one Jesus Neo figure but why? Instead of taking one 16 year old slave laborer and investing years and countless resources into making him a Gold to infiltrate the upper class wouldn’t it just be easier to find a Gold with half a heart and tell them about the Reds. Oh yeah, so most Golds don’t even know that there’s a slave class under their feet they should care about. And yes, many of them probably wouldn’t care but I bet you could find a couple. Anyway, let’s turn a slave into an upperclassman and hope for the best. No worries that he would likely defect, or die, or fail in any number of ways (like all the previous ones they tried). Let’s just keep putting all of our eggs in one basket. It is far more plausible that a suicidal teenager who doesn’t have any family left that he cares about would just decide to live as a high class Gold then spend years crafting an overtake of their government and succeed in that very complicated mission with little to no guidance. It’s nonsense.
The main problem that I have with the book is that it is extraordinarily sexist. Eo must die because the hero has to be a man and a man is motivated most by his property being taken away from him. Darrow’s second love interest later in the book, Mustang, gets kidnapped to be the damsel in distress to his white knight, she even comments on it “I’ve become the maiden in distress haven’t I? slag! I hate those girls!” Yeah, me too honey, me too. Know what I hate more? Male authors who treat their female characters like cannon fodder. The only other female character of note in the whole book is a potential tribe leader called Antonia, of whom another character says they wouldn’t want her as their leader because “she’s a bitch.” To the point there Brown. We have here the trifecta of bad female stereotypes: the woman in a fridge, the former warrior turned damsel, and the bitch.
In addition to the female characters being extremely harmful stereotypes the language of the entire book is couched in a sexism that is so casual it must be seeping out of the author’s natural outlook. Every time something or someone is described as weak or lesser they are said to be like a woman. Here are several examples if you don’t believe me:
- When describing a man as frail, “so thin I thought it a woman at first”
- When mocking vain men, “they flaunt their muscles like girls showing off new toys”
- Within a list of past countries that have fallen it is said that Europe fell because of its “effeminacy”
- When describing a hated character, “smell the lies dripping from him like sweat, like a woman in heat he’s a vile thing. A wretched womanish thing.”
- As a general insult: “you sound like a girl did something happen to your balls?”
- When someone yelps in pain, “you sound like a girl”
- In outrage to a male, “you little girl!”
This generalized sexism seeps so deep into the lexicon that it might not even register on some readers’ radar. The author consistently refers to groups of people as “boys and girls” instead of just as people. He’s forged a divide through the genders and made it a foundation for his novel.
As bad as the female character representation is, the author creates something even more vile in his depiction of the Pinks. This is not a major plot point just part of the only world building that Brown bothered to do. There are many different colors for the classes outside of the extremes of Red and Gold. From what I can gather an Obsidian is a large warrior, a Brown is another low class, and there are Purples and other colors around doing the middle class thing but there are also Pinks. These are the sex slaves. Their sole purpose in life, even stated in the book as the purpose for which they are bred, is to sexually pleasure the Golds. They are basically sex veal. They are described as being sexually attractive in large breasts and lips or in the case of the male Pinks, slim athletic types who would be attractive but not intimidating. How fucking disgusting is it to have an entire class of people born into sex against their will with whoever comes to buy them?! Rape is very commonplace in this book and it is treated like just an everyday part of life. When the book is in the Hunger Games section the young adults (all around 18 years old) all revert back to a kind of feral state which assumes that the male’s default setting is rapist. Darrow has to put out a decree that no one on his team shall rape women anymore. They have to be told this. This is insulting to men as well as women. Pretty sure most men, maybe not Pierce Brown, but most men can see a sick or sleeping woman and not have to put their dick in her.
There is probably much more I could go into about how Red Rising is a disgrace, like his seriously lame attempt at making up slang and curse words like gorydamn, but I think you get the point. It’s lazy, it’s sexist, it’s bad. Don’t buy it. And the next time you read a novel that tops the bestseller charts please stop to think about it objectively. Not everything popular is worth your time.
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Read this popular book about children murdering each other instead: The Hunger Games (Book 1) or this one: Battle Royale: Remastered (Battle Royale (Novel)) or whatever just watch this movie: Battle Royale: Colect Bdrpk V2 [Blu-ray]