I don’t remember hearing much about Pierce Brown’s novel Red Rising within the SFF genre, but it’s been a hugely popular book, with 3,200 Amazon reviews averaging 4.5 stars. Even after I finally noticed it, I assumed it was a YA novel, and I’m not particularly interested in YA, so I didn’t pursue it. What finally persuaded me to take a serious look was an enthusiastic recommendation from @alexvdl0 on Twitter. (See? Word of mouth really does work!)
I started reading the sample and was hooked almost immediately. Red Rising is set on Mars, in a highly stratified society. It’s the story of a young man named Darrow, born into the lowest strata. It’s told in his own words, and in some sense it’s a study of how a very skilled writer can employ standard tropes and make them fascinating again.
So I'm 64% thru Red Rising. Really impressed so far. SF and epic fantasy in one, and I love the writing style: clear, concise, poetic.
— Linda Nagata (@LindaNagata) August 5, 2016
I was swept away — which doesn’t actually happen all that often anymore.
(Some slight spoilers follow…)
So what are the tropes?
* the chosen one
* Gary Stu
* training academy
* survival game with extreme violence
* revenge story
Still, it all plays out in fresh ways, and with impressively engaging writing. This can plausibly be described as a grim-dark novel, but it’s not nihilistic. There is a cause worth fighting for.
From a strictly science fiction perspective, I thought it was very well done, with impressive world building.
Red Rising is published by Del Rey and is the first of a trilogy. I don’t want to risk getting distracted, so I’m saving book 2, Golden Sun, until after I get my current project finished.