Red Rising by Pierce Brown is the powerful first in a projected dystopian trilogy. This debut lives up to the hype that surrounds, and I don’t use the word “powerful” lightly. The writing is muscular and vivid. The characters come alive. The plot is intense and perfectly paced.
This is a great choice for readers who loved Hunger Games (or Divergent, another phenomenon in our libraries). It is bigger, badder, more complex. It will not disappoint. (And it takes place on Mars!) Not only does it evoke the dystopian realms of current favorites, it twists several classics along the way. Brown lists his many, many influences in an interview on the Random House-sponsored Suvudu site, including The Iliad, Antigone, and The Prince.
The Barnes & Noble Book Blog has a great “Five Reasons You Should Read Pierce Brown’s Red Rising” post, one of which is its “virtually limitless” potential audience, including teens. The Entertainment Weekly review wraps up with, “In the galaxy of YA phenomena, it has everything it needs to become meteoric.”
Red Rising is bound to be translated into film, and the author is at work on the second in the trilogy. Teens may well be the audience that sends this one into the stratosphere.
* BROWN, Pierce. Red Rising. 400p. Del Rey: Ballantine. Jan. 2014. Tr $25. ISBN 9780345539786; ebk. ISBN 9780345539793.
Adult/High School–For three years, Darrow, 16, has been a hot-tempered helldiver, drilling deep beneath the surface of Mars for helium-3, the lifeblood of the terraforming process that will someday make the planet habitable for future generations. Darrow is a Red, the lowly class of laborers in a color-coded caste system crowned by Golds who rule with ruthless authority. After his wife, Eo, is executed for a simple defiance, Darrow also finds himself in the hangman’s noose. He survives through the effort of rebels who want to overthrow the Golds. When he learns that Mars has already been terraformed and made habitable, he realizes being a Red means being a slave. Instead of working for the benefit of future generations, he has been toiling only to enhance the power and wealth of the Golds. Darrow begins a process of physical and cognitive transformation in order to pass as a Gold. He will avenge the death of Eo not through terrorism, but by achieving power from within. To do so, he must survive a months-long initiation ritual that is a Darwinian war of attrition. Only a single leader and his tribe will survive to take their place among the most powerful of the Golds. Evoking the tribal tensions and intrigues of George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones (Bantam, 1996), Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games (Scholastic, 2008), and the TV show “Survivor,” Red Rising will carry readers far beyond those entertainments with powerful writing, vivid world-building, and captivating characters that teens will love, loathe, and want more of in the volumes to come.–John Sexton, Greenburgh Public Library, NY