This review originally appeared on WorldOfJoel.com
I'm not sure how I've missed Red Rising for as long as I have. The science fiction novel and first in a trilogy of novels was released in 2014 and has been receiving accolades ever since. Somehow though it managed to quietly drift in my "to-read" list for the last year or so up until a couple of weeks back when I really started to hanker for a good science fiction novel.
If you've read anything about Red Rising you've undoubtedly heard the comparisons between it and The Hunger Games. The comparison is both apt and slightly misguided. This is a novel about a young-man Darrow who rises from the bottom of Mars to the top with a piece of luck and a ton of heart. The novel starts off in one of the most gut wrenching segments I've ever began a novel with. The author builds the world on Mars so quickly that you instantly connect with Darrow, his wife, and his family and their day-to-day lives. The book quickly upends that and sends you on a roller-coaster ride that I never wanted to get off.
Sadly on the novels third act things begin to take a turn for the worse. This is where a lot of the Hunger Games comparisons come in as Darrow is now at a school for the elite where he must compete to become Primus. This doesn't feel as well fleshed out nor as engaging as the more personal stories that the novel begins with. And yet even for its faults I couldn't help but push through. Pierce Brown does a "prime" (if you read the novels you will understand the word choice) job of character development and world building but a middling job on the action set pieces. There were also a handful of times that I had a hard time believing some of the side characters actions both of obedience and of rebellion.
At the end of the day, Red Rising still was one of my favorite reads of 2016. It was so good that I've already purchased the last two books in the trilogy, something I've only done for Game of Thrones. A very solid science fiction novel that I hope continues to grow and get better in the next books.
I'm the Owner & Editor in Chief of Darkstation.com. After spending seven years as the reviews editor I took over the site in 2010. The rest is history. Now I work with our amazing staff to bring you the best possible video game coverage. Oh and I really like sports games.