27 Jan 2023

Science Fiction and Fantasy Fridays: RED RISING SAGA by Pierce Brown

Science Fiction and Fantasy Fridays introduces readers who are unfamiliar with the Adult SF/F genre to books, authors, and discussions all about the vast expanse of the world of Adult SF/F!


Author: Pierce Brown
Series: Red Rising Sage #1
Source: Audiobook via Audible
Publisher: Del Rey
Publication Date: January 28, 2014

"I live for the dream that my children will be born free," she says. "That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them."

"I live for you," I say sadly.

Eo kisses my cheek. "Then you must live for more."

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity's overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society's ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies... even if it means he has to become one of them to do so. 

Content WarningsAnimal cruelty, Animal death, Attempted rape, Attempted suicide, Bullying, Eugenics, Misogyny, Murder, Mutilation, Rape (mentioned), Sexual assault, Slavery, Violence

This is a review of the first three books that make up the first trilogy. I will have a separate post for the next set of books in the series, if I decide to read them.

Red Rising

This is a two star book. The ending was pretty good and I think it has good potential as a series, I just am not sure if I want to continue with it or not. I was hoping for more rebellion and more politics, especially since this is technically classified as an Adult novel (although I'm not sure why - Darrow starts at like 16 and ends at 18 in this novel). However, that is not what you get. It is a mash-up of The Hunger Games, Ender's Game, and, strangely, Percy Jackson and the Olympians Boxed Set. So yes, lots to talk about.

First, warning for rape in this book. Like lots of it. And it is not handled well and a better person than me could unpack the reasons why it is horrible and not needed in the way it was done. I just don't have the mental strength to ever have to do that. But basically the only character who was openly appalled by the rape in this book was Mustang. Everyone else was like "well it's just how life is" and that's not okay. And the one character victim blames, and Darrow literally hugs an attempted rapist and I just couldn't. I almost DNFed after two specific incidents that both surrounded rape. So there's that: one star gone.

The plot was ALL OVER THE PLACE. I am halfway through explaining it after this sentence and am making myself even more confused as to what actually happened in this book tbh. It is a very confusing novel that seemed to want to be one thing and ended up another.

We start with Darrow as a red trying to win a larel for digging his rock stuff on Mars because he is one of the people helping to terraform Mars so that people can come and live on the planet, only to then have his wife die (because how can this story be anything if a woman doesn't die so a man can do something with his life), which leads us to finding out that the Golds are actually already here!! So here I am expecting him to be like, okay cool, let's go back to the reds and tell them and mess up the gold society! Except... that's not what happened.

Darrow goes under a transformation to become a Gold and basically everything changes about him except his name. Like, legit though. And he gains all this knowledge over night. And then is magically a Gold. Fine, I'll roll with that because it moves the plot along (even though that whole section was boring af). BUT then he gets to the school and is somehow the smartest/bestest/most amazingest person there. Um, what?

This school is all about creating leaders out of Golds -- I think. It was a little confusing because there are like 107123712093712093 other schools that they could all attend, but this is the most prestigious one so of course Darrow gets in and tops the class right away. If people top the graduating class, they can have their choice of apprenticeships and be leaders and all this awesome rewarding stuff. How do they top this class? Well there is lots of murder involved and then a Hunger Games style war with the Greek Gods basically watching over them and interfering (as Greek Gods do). The kids get recruited into different houses where they will compete to be the head of this household and then they have to fight with the other houses to eventually be SUPREME OVERLORD. Oh, and the Mars Proctor tells them not to kill anyone but then tons of people die, so clearly that rule is optional.

And this is where I totally zoned out. You would think that war and intrigue and politics would all play a role in this, except it wasn't like that at all. Sure there was some military strategy and such, but it was not that interesting. It felt like an overextended Hunger Games that took too long in the middle and everything happened at the end. Sure we meet some characters and there is "character development" (aka Darrow becomes EVEN MORE AWESOME) but it just felt like everything until the last 20% was just waiting for this last 20% to happen. As was I.

But like I said, the plot was everywhere. And who is the main villain in this? Well, not even Darrow is quite sure. He starts off hating Augustus because he killed his wife, then he gets to the school and ... sorta stops. Or at least focuses on hating other people, until the last 20% when he basically does a "OH YEAH FUCK THAT GUY" sort of turn. I'm sure there is like another big bad waiting in the wings but it seemed strange that the entire time at this school Darrow was like "oh yeah gotta win!! To save the Reds!!" but then would be like "these proctors suck!!!" and I was just very confused. Who was I supposed to be hating? Everyone??

And tbh, I did. I only really liked Mustang. She was the only good character. Oh, Sevro. I liked him too. He was fiesty and strange but he was good people. Everyone else was kind of an asshole, but in a bad way. Like none of them were relatable, just annoying. But this is especially true for Darrow. Whose man pain knows no bounds. So another star off for the plot.

Lastly, this IS supposed to be about a rebellion right? And it's set on Mars? So why the fuck does it read like High Fantasy when it should be a SciFi novel. There was barely any tech advancement; I had a hard time determining if this was in the past or the future even though it was set on Mars. I understand now why people have it categorized as both on Goodreads, but it's really not a SciFi novel. I mean, it's barely Fantasy either. And where is this rebellion. Why are people just being put into this institute. Are they all like sleepers? Gonna say a code and they will eff you up. Because giving 16 year old kids the ability to be Gold and saying "okay become SUPER POWERFUL" should not work as a rebellion. Like there is no way. They will get a taste of the power and be like "OH YEAH I LIKE THIS" because absolute power corrupts absolutely. And there should have been more mention of what the actual rebellion is/would be doing? Don't make me guess this shit. You gotta give me something so I can be like "ah yes, Darrow killing this person makes sense because of XYZ in the rebellion" and not just "Darrow is killing someone else because he's a manic killer" tbh.

Golden Son

Well it was better than the first one but still not fantastic. There are some really good elements to it, but it still isn't becoming the cohesive story that I want it to. I hated the way this book started with a "failure" only to turn it around and prove that his failure would have worked. Darrow is only a good character because of the side characters around him.

There are so many plots and subplots from the last book that still aren't answered - and on top of that we missed almost a whole year or so of Darrow's education that would really make me believe that anything of use happens in the education system.

Also - this is set in the future right? What descriptions do we see that make me believe this is set in space beyond them talking about Mars as if it's only a town over from me. In my opinion, this is barely Science Fiction and is more heavily a description of historical battles recreated for a new audience.

The Sons of Ares, and the reveals we got throughout, were interesting. I liked seeing how they become more and more like the Society they are fighting against. But it all felt so.... Hunger Games to me. I didn't realize the first time I read this how many parallels you could draw between this and the Hunger Games (specifically, there are other dystopians it reminds me of as well).

I do care about the ending of this series a bit, but knowing that it's not just one more book but 5 more books that I have to read? Seems daunting at this point in time.

Morning Star

I am free! I have finished the first trilogy! Everyone who says "It gets so much better!" is lying to you. It only gets worse. Morning Star is probably the most boring book I've ever read and I slogged through all of The Wheel of Time where people literally tell you to skip a majority of them.

This is the same story as Red Rising and Golden Son just rinsed and repeated. Darrow is the saviour of all and without him, there is chaos, so obviously he needs to lead. People unnecessarily die to show how cool, smart, and awesome Darrow is and how messed up Sevro is. Sevro is still great with his one liners and Victra really grew on me. But everyone else sucks!

One thing I mentioned to my fiancé, which is more of a callout to the whole series, is that even though this is based on Plato's philosopher kings and the cave, there is SO much reference to Greek and Roman war tactics and it makes zero sense. They wouldn't fight a battle as if they were on feet, they would do it AT LEAST as though they are on horses. They have SPACE SHIPS!!! And why do they keep referencing Greek and Roman mythology, which has basically fallen out of pop culture now (although I'm VERY excited for the new Percy Jackson show).

I just think that this could have been a better story if it was kept within one or two books at the most, taken out all the rape, and given Darrow some actual struggles instead of being the Gary Stu That Leads All Other Gary Stus.

I'm sorry to say but don't read this series.

Have you read this book? What was your favourite part?

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