Saturday, July 13, 2013

Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

There is nothing so satisfying as finding a new author, except finding a new author of really good, solid science fiction. That author is Pierce Brown and the book is Red Rising.

When I started the book, I was not impressed. Brown thrust me into the world of a Helldiver and the mining caste of Reds, but the true nature of the Reds didn't become apparent until I was much farther along in the book. The first chapter was all right and the writing was clear, if a bit overwhelming with all the Helldiver action and pitvipers and such, but the story was was weak. I could find no connection to Darrow at all. He's a kid in my world but a man in his own world and a newlywed and a powerful man in his own with a strong drive to excel and exceed the limits. I did have a grudging respect for him on that score, but the beginning was still slow and I stopped reading Red Rising to read other more interesting books.

I came back determined to read through to the end and suddenly Brown caught fire. Darrow won his Laurel but didn't get it because the system would not allow a Red of his clan to win. As he watched his prize and the food going to the same clan that always won regardless of how much the Lykos clan produced, I began to get a feel for Darrow's world and his wife, Eo's, dream. What followed was rage making and poignant and the real world of Mars and the Color Caste began to emerge into a light dawning on a much bigger story that moved forward with harrowing speed and force. That is when I was well and truly caught into the juggernaut that is Red Rising.

I was fooled by Brown's almost laconic beginning pace, in spite of the Helldiver action, into thinking Darrow's story was just another knock-off science fiction story. I was wrong. The pace and suspense build and build to a focused and sustained screaming Hell ride into a story that pits strength and cunning against a decadent and decaying society in the first throes of its privileged demise. The ante continues to spiral upward until Darrow assaults the gods and heaven itself in a stomach churning, adrenaline thundering story with an ending that illustrates just how far Darrow has come from the comforting confines of mines and his world view. He has seen the stars and taken hold of destiny with a fierce grip.

Red Rising is a heady mix of hard and soft science fiction with a fiercely wild heart. Although based loosely on the Roman and Greek pantheon of gods and goddesses, Brown has build a solar system of stunning breadth where slavery is a colorful necessity and power corrupts and changes those that can adapt in new ways. The science and medicine is fascinating and the political maneuvering breath taking in its scope, reminiscent of the best of Robert A. Heinlein and Roger Zelazny without the use of their hierarchies or ruling systems. This is quite simply the best science fiction I have read in decades. The only downside is that this is the first of a trilogy and doesn't debut until February 2014 and I have at least two more years to wait for the next installment.

With a first book like Red Rising, I anxiously await the rest of Brown's vision.

For its slow start, I give 4/5 stars, but I'd say this book is closer to 4.5 stars. It is after all only one chapter that fails to sing with the power and intensity of the rest of the novel.


NOTE:  Red Rising is not due out until February 2014, but this book is definitely one that should be on your list. Get it when it debuts in 2014.  It is worth the wait.

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