Red Rising: Volume I
Written by: Pierce Brown
Reviewed by: Brad Williamson
Genre: Soft Science-Fiction / Action
I didn’t know much about its plot going into Red Rising, but I’d heard a lot of praise for the series and am always looking for new science-fiction, so I went on a limb and bought the first book. Before I get any further into this review, some transparency: I bought the other 4 books of the series before reaching page 200.
I’ve heard many comparisons to the Red Rising series, but allow me to make new ones: if you liked Battle Royale, A Song of Ice and Fire, or Kingkiller Chronicles, then you will enjoy this book. It’s not YA, and the comparisons to Maze Runner, Hunger Games, and Ender’s Game are misleading. It’s a bit overstructured and cliche, but it’s extremely well-written, violent, sexually overtured, complexly foreshadowed, action-packed, and surprisingly intellectual, especially during the first half of the book when the action isn’t roaring past you with nonstop barrages of treachery and gore.
It almost feels like two books in one; the first half is stocked with wonderful prose, extensive world-building, interesting history, and character development, while the conclusion is a roller coaster ride of tunnel-visioned brutality and despair. It’s hard to say which half I enjoyed more, so I’ll just state that both were fantastic.
However, I was expecting a science-fiction novel. And I guess you could call it science-fiction, but it’s closer to fantasy; it’s goose-feather-soft science-fiction. If you’re looking for technological and scientific explanations, you won’t get them, at least not in book one. Spacefaring just kind of developed and the technology is available, and you have to take these things at face value. I believe this was intentional though, as Brown is an adept writer; it feels like he sacrificed these explanations in favor of better pacing. Though it is essentially a different genre than I was expecting, this did not hamper my enjoyment.
A few things really stick out about this book. He is great at writing characters. The book is relatively short, but the cast is enormous. Still, many dozens of the characters feel real and unique. In just a few brief paragraphs he introduces you to characters that never again need explanation, who develop further through the action of the novel. And the action of the novel is paced superbly, reminiscent of Asimov’s pacing style.
I loved this book and recommend it to anyone who enjoys science-fiction, dystopia, action, or fun books.