Red Has Risen ... the Golds Just Don't Know It Yet

Books do not generally confound me (the fact that some books have actually been published, however, is another matter).  I like to think that I have strong opinions about what I read, and that I'll express them even if they're not popular or flattering.

When I finished Red Rising, I really, truly didn't know what I thought of it.  My first thought was, "Oh.  It's over?"  Then, "Poop, when does the next one come out?"  Then, "Um, did I really like it?"  "Why did it end so bloodyd*mn fast?  What's a slingBlade again?"  I actually couldn't sleep because I was thinking about this book.

This morning, I realized that that meant it's a goryd*mn good book.  It mixed up all of my feelings and made me wonder if I could do what Darrow did.  You might love him or hate him.  Some reviewers call him a Gary Stu--the kind of character for whom everything happens just right.  He's not, though.  He makes some pretty big mistakes, and you can't exactly kill off the main character in the first book.  Not if he's going to lead a rebellion.  Only George R.R. Martin does that.

I, personally, liked Darrow a lot.  The development of his character in the beginning was very good, and I really loved Eo (even though she got very little "screen time").  Their relationship felt so real, even though it's hard for us to think about having that level of maturity in a relationship at 16.  But hey, if you're a Helldiver, you're gonna die young.  What society forces Reds to do to their family members in the name of mercy is horrifying, yet it explains why and how Darrow can do what he needs to do.

The big reveal is a surprise to Darrow, but not to the reader.  This is where I started wishing that this book were longer.  I would have loved to explore the Mars that Brown has created.  Hopefully we'll do this in later books.  But after Darrow is literally ripped apart and rebuilt (again, a trope not uncommon in sci-fi but done very well here), he's whisked off to compete against other Golds for a position of power in society.

I have to say, the Passage was particularly shocking, but after that is when I started to lose a little steam.  The rest of the book consists of Darrow and whomever he's got as an ally *checks watch* now running around the arena launching sneak attacks and capturing people and messing around with the proctors (each of whom represents a different House of a different Roman god--Minerva, Mars, Juno, etc).  It started to pick up again when Darrow finds out that the games are actually fixed, and then he gets really teed off.  People start running around in wolfskins.  They acquire catchy nicknames like Mustang and Reaper.  You're barreling full-force in an assault against Mount Olympus and then ... it stops.  It's such a whiplash-inducing moment that I felt lost and sad when it happened.  I had just really started getting into the whole plotting thing that was going on and then WHOOM.  Over.  Done.  That's it.  Make your choice, Darrow.  Book 2.  

As for the supporting characters, I think they were done really well.  The only one I question is Pax--and it's not so much his character, but rather Darrow's complete 180-turn in his opinion of Pax.  One second Pax is a monster, the next, a gentle giant.  Mustang is fantastic--smart and tough without being gushy, and Sevro is magnificent as the off-kilter wolf guy (no other way to explain it).  Titus is suitably insane, and unlike other reviewers, I did not feel that the rape subplot was in any way exploitative or dismissive of rape.  I could easily see all of this happening in the sort of situation described.  Brown does not glamorize rape.  

I also really, really liked the Mars lingo and how it reflected the stratification of society.  I'm a sucker for new words and phrases in far-future books, so this was a lot of fun for me.  I'm a language nerd--what can I say?

So, basically this review has been me blithering (pointlessly, and with little substance) on about the book.  Let's get down to brass tacks.

Would I recommend it?
Yes.
Did I adore it?
No.
Did I like it very, very much?
Yes.
What was my main complaint?
This could have easily been twice as long and I would have been much happier.  I wanted to dig into this world and watch every single plotting session and every single battle in excruciating detail.  That's how I like my sci-fi and fantasy.

Did Darrow inspire me to join his revolution? (His speeches are really good, by the way.  Pierce Brown is excellent at propaganda)
Bloodyd*mn yeah.

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