Just finished reading Red rising by Pierce Brown – I confess that I went into this with maybe slightly negative feelings. I was feeling a little bit meh about another futuristic dystopian novel. Lets face it Collins was to dystopia what Meyers was to Vampires and frankly it became a little bit tedious to say the least. So, let’s just assume I was going to be a little bit of a tougher nut to crack on this novel than I sometimes feel when I start reading. This is the first thing that makes it so much more surprising that I totally enjoyed this book. Not only did Brown win me over but he gripped me and had the pages turning so fast that you could be forgiven for thinking I was Johnny 5 – need input!
Okay, the novel gets off to a fairly quick start. We’re introduced in short measure to the mining community and I’m talking about the mining community on Mars! These people work bloody hard – they have to make a quota in order to eat. The idea of luxuries is ridiculous beyond measure. These people have nothing – however, what they do have is love and passion in abundance. In that respect they are rich and their families bathe in the wealth of love that they all hold for each other. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of harsh competition between the different families, which is understandable given the benefits, but they all still have a fairly tight knit community. Now, all that, came across in fairly short measure. Brown has a wonderful eloquence with words that imparts knowledge without impeding the story. What happens next is eye opening for you the reader and for Darrow who is the main protagonist. Yes, we’ve both been taken for a ride here – by someone. There is some pretty deep shit going on here! And, I don’t want to give it away – however, this is a review so I have to write something and I’m going to move the story on without telling you exactly why. Suffice to say that Darrow finds himself in a situation where he is part of a team, warring against other teams for the prize of becoming the best. This is not a fight to the death – this is a game of survival and tactics, a game of politics and making friends where you least suspected. A game where you can rise to the very top.
So, onto a more critical analysis. The setting. Easy to visualise. Nothing too over the top in the way of future sophisticated scenery just a glimpse, not enough to date the story too quickly. Basically the people on earth have discovered ways of colonising other planets. They need a certain gas (found beneath the exterior of Mars – hence the miners) in order to do so.
The characters – we have a brief glimpse at the beginning of the miners and they really do have the pretty fuzzy end of the lollypop, which makes the reveal so much worse. Obviously the main character is Darrow – and he’s a dilemma. He starts off the story with a fire in his belly. He is on a mission which is not necessarily the one he wants but it’s the only chance he has. Having read the book I’m not sure about Darrow I don’t dislike him, in fact the opposite, however I think that Brown is clearly trying to get across how a person is influenced by their environment. Darrow is in a competition and he wants to win. Of course he wants to win for a purpose and yet reading the story does he also start to become a tiny little bit like the people he most hates – anyway, I move into other realms. There are plenty of characters, slimy two timers, hench-can’t-be-stopped-don’t-mess-with-me-mothers and straight-up-crazy-arsed-in-a good-way-runs-with-wolves-and-scares-the-shit-out-of-everyone-way types. Basically there are good guys and bad guys on every team, in fact there are right and wrong people in every strata – and that’s the way it is and it starts to come out as the story goes along.
Anyway, the whole dystopia boils down to the fact that society has become segregated. People are born and live into a colour that defines them for the rest of their lives. Reds are miners, Golds are the top echelon of society and then there are a whole variety of colours in-between. Looked at in that way and in the way that the book is written it seems almost an exaggerated take on the class system. There are more stratas than upper, middle and lower class but at the end of the day it boils down to the uppers and lowers which are basically the ones where the disparity are most likely to show issues in any society. As an example, you have people of the upper stratas poncing around on their hover boots chasing young girls to frolic away the afternoon whilst others of the lower factions are struggling to eat and stay alive.
What makes this book so readable and so intense is the competition that Darrow becomes a part of. It’s really tough. I don’t know whether this is YA, but I personally thought it was due to the age of the main protagonist and yet this gets down right dirty and ugly. This isn’t a simple game of survival – it gets much more tough than that. It’s a gritty read and also reads almost like a straight up fantasy given the setting which during the games is almost mediaeval.
Anyway, this is a very cryptic review because I don’t really want to give too much away. I enjoyed this. I thought the writer’s style was addictive. I found the whole competition intriguing and I’m perfectly sure that I’ve missed a lot of nuances that I’m sure everybody else will pick up on. So read it and tell me what I missed.
A book which I have no hesitation in recommending.
I received a copy of this from the publishers through Net Galley for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.
Fan Art Up is a weekly feature hosted by Tabitha at Not Yet Read. Details here. Stop over and check out the other’s taking part. Each week I see if I have a book doodle or just a random doodle to place here. This week I’ve had some very good books, Corroded by Karina Cooper, Age of Iron by Angus Watson and Red Rising by Pierce Brown. I did struggle to come up with something – I’ve tried out a tower – there are always towers in fantasy as we found out this week at Tough Travelling and one of the characters from one of these books becomes known as the Reaper – mainly because of his weapon of choice (also there were towers). For those who haven’t read it – this is from Red Rising. (My lovely hubby thinks that my reaper sketch looks like a table lamp!!!!) More practice then….
This week Nathan from the Fantasy Review Barn is taking us travelling through the tropes of fantasy and focusing on towers:
‘TOWERS stand alone in waste areas and almost always belong to Wizards. All are several storeys high, round, doorless, virtually windowless, and composed of smooth blocks of masonry that make them very hard to climb.’
Surprisingly I found this more difficult than I thought! I’ll start off by chucking in Rapunzel – no doors so it counts – and it belongs to a witch.
This is a cheat – The Once and Future King by T H White – in which Merlin is banished to a remote and crumbly tower in Sir Ector’s castle. This is only a cheat because I never finished the book – not because I wasn’t enjoying it but because it was a library book and I had to return it – I just need to go and get it out again!! Duh…
The Tower of Raven’s Reach – the setting of the grande finale from Scott Lynch’s Lies of Locke Lamora. No witches or wizards and there are doors into the place – but it’s a very tall tower! In fact I seem to remember the lovely Locke suffering from a fear of heights at one point! Plus there are the Glass Towers where all the elite live. Not really any magical connections though…so, grasping at straws at all!
The Two Towers – LoTR by Tolkien – if you chuck a stick anywhere in middle earth you pretty much hit a tower – this is definitely a bona fide entry – however it’s a very easy and rather obvious one. Still, never miss an opportunity to get Lord of the Rings on a list seems to be my motto and therefore it would be folly not to include this!
Two cheats – although I do own both books I haven’t read them so I’m assuming that there are towers involved because it says so in the title!:
The Tower Lord by Anthony Ryan
The Dark Towers by Stephen King
And, finally – thinking outside the box…
Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer – this is a bit of a twisted one really – four explorers are sent to explore zone ‘x’. They find a circular staircase that goes down into the ground – for some reason throughout this is called a tower – given that this isn’t really a tower I could also mention that there is a lighthouse in area x – which also plays a very prominent part?? Trying to think along different lines here – not quite sure it’s working out for me though! Anyway, much creepiness – stay away from area x is my general advice ! – although do read the book I hasten to add.
This week’s theme over at The Broke and the Bookish is:
‘Top Ten Books I Really Want To Read But Don’t Own Yet:’
I confess, these are primarily books that aren’t yet released – so, in which case, of course I don’t own them but I really do want to read them! In no particular order I give you my Top Ten for this week:
- Sword of the North by Luke Scull (No.2 of the Grim Company)
- The Bastards and the Knives by Scott Lynch
- The Thorn of Emberlain by Scott Lynch (Gentleman Bastard No.4)
- The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss – a novella set in the world of the Kingkiller Chronicle series
- Doors of Stone by Patrick Rothfuss – No.3 of the Kingkiller Chronicles
- The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler (sequel to The Thousand Names)
- The 2nd book in Mark Lawrence’s Red Queen’s War series (started with Prince of Fools) no idea when this is due out but I WANT IT!
- Generation V by M Brennan – this one completely went under the radar must buy a copy and read it soon!
- Shades of Milk and Honey (The Glamourist series) by Mary Robinette Kowal. I just really like this look of this one and have for some time but haven’t actually bought any yet!
- Maplecroft by Cherie Priest – gothic horror.
Oh my – such a lot to look forward to!
Just finished reading Age of Iron by Angus Watson – which I loved. I just really liked this – it’s very entertaining and it kept me glued to the page. Literally, I’ve read this in 2 days or maybe even less because I didn’t want to put it down! Anyway, I get ahead of myself.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Age of Iron other than three unusual characters who come together out of need. Dug, Spring and Lowa – the most unlikely set of companions that you could imagine!
At the start of the story Dug, a warrior for hire, has been roped into help defend the town and hillfort of Barton against King Zadar’s army. Having already completely annihilatied the town of Boddingham Zadar’s army are going to swing by Barton on the way back to Maidum Castle. At this point, there is still a debate about whether a battle will actually take place or not or whether this will be simply a display of strength and chariots. After all, Barton pays its taxes and tributes! Well, we don’t sit on a knife edge for long before a simple whim that could have gone either way brings Zadar’s army charging across the field to slaughter Barton’s defences At the same time, Lowa is helping Zadar achieve victory – one of his favoured she is a warrior and expert with a longbow. Whilst, awaiting the outcome of the battle and ready to move onto the field and collect the spoils of war is a rag tag bunch of misfits led by a man called Ogre and accompanied by a young girl called Spring. As mentioned, the three come together in unusual circumstances involving a lucky knock to the head rendering Dug unconscious during the massacre, Lowa being betrayed by Zadar and escaping with her life and ideas of revenge and Spring attaching herself to Dug who finds himself unable to forsake her!
What really worked for me with this story were the pacing, which is just constant and almost immediate and boils down to a fairly narrow time frame overall. The author’s style of writing which seems to casually and effortlessly set the scene without the use of long wieldy descriptions, difficult names and families/relationships. And the characters. Not only did I really like the three main characters but I also equally disliked some of the baddies! I love it when I get some proper nasty characters who I can really genuinely dislike! That being said, there are no really simple black and white characters here. Dug is a great character but he’s far from perfect. He’s not above walking away from a situation if it puts him in danger. He’s definitely a bit dictated to by his ‘little man’ and, on top of this – let’s not forget he’s a mercenary for hire and was originally intending joining the ranks of Zadar’s army. Similarly, Lowa has a very brutal and bloodthirsty past which she has time to reflect on once she’s on the other side of the fence. Spring is a very mysterious character. She’s only young, I think about 10 years old maybe, and yet she seems to be one of those people who things seem to come together for. I really liked her. If pushed though, I’m not sure I could name a favourite – they all have their own individual roles to play in this story and they all have their moments to shine.
On top of this the story itself is entertaining. It’s a strange mix of bloody warfare, torture and truly horrible nastiness but it’s all wrapped up in a humourous style package that prevents it from becoming too grisly. Darkly humourous I guess. Although, if you are a bit squeamish I’m just going to chuck in here that this might not be for you. Just saying. For me, I like that this isn’t too grim and takes a slightly less serious stance on what could become a very dark tale indeed.
In terms of the fantasy element – this is only very lightly done and comes in the form of the magic used by the druids of the period. Of course, some of them are simply charlatans but there are others who are truly capable.
Now I’m not a historian but I don’t think I really need to be to know that certain elements of this are not maybe factually accurate – for example the manner of speech which is modern. Personally, I like the modern take on the historical story and find the use of this type of language much easier in terms of the flow of the story. Others might have a different opinion but it certainly wasn’t an issue for me.
If you like a good romping adventure, a tale of revenge, a tale of comradeship and you can stomach the more grisly side (which has been tempered by a slightly humourous take not to mention some very inventive cursing) add to this a sprinkling of magic, some good old arena style games and an old fashioned tale involving difficult situations and heroic solutions then this could be the very book you’ve been waiting for.
Frankly, I really enjoyed this and have no hesitation in recommending it.
I received a copy of this courtesy of the publishers through Netgalley for which I give my thanks. The above is my own opinion.