A Better Version of the Hunger Games: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

A Better Version of the Hunger Games: Red Rising by Pierce Brown


I resent you, Pierce Brown. Your absolutely riveting novel, Red Rising, kept me awake for nearly three days because I virtually could not put it down. In those moments that I did manage to pry my Kindle from my fingers, my brain couldn’t leave the story alone. I hope you feel bad about that. For the rest of you, forgive Mr. Brown in advance, because this novel will capture you completely.

Red Rising follows a young man called Darrow who belongs to the Reds – the huddled masses of miners who live their entire lives beneath the surface of a futuristic Mars, burrowing for the precious Helium-3 used for transforming Mars into a habitable planet. The Reds accept their lot, knowing that success means relief for the dying masses of Earth. One problem, though. The story is a lie. Mars was colonized hundreds of years before and the Reds remain as ignorant slaves far beneath the crust. For Darrow, everything changes in a moment of sacrificial rebellion. He is transported to the Mars above, a land ruled by Golds and populated by lesser colors of people. Physically re-created into a Gold by a terrorist group, Darrow soon finds himself competing in brutal and deadly war games with other young Golds for an honored place in Gold society. And Darrow proves very good at waging war. But can he continue to hide what he really is? Can he find a way to win at the Gold’s game without sacrificing his Red soul? Can he bring down Gold society and free his people without destroying them both?

Okay – this story is fantastic on so many levels. The moral level as Darrow walks a razor thin line between winning the war and losing himself. The emotional level as Darrow tries not to like (or love) those whom he should hate. But the power of the story lies in Darrow’s prowess at war, and his unconventional and counter-intuitive strategy to win. The war games competition, from the writing to the flow to the twists, make Red Rising a better version of the Hunger Games – with more nuance, more turns, and more moral dilemma than Katniss ever faced.

I still resent you, Pierce Brown. But I thank you for an incredible tale that plumbs the depths of the human spirit. Well done, young man. Well and truly done.

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