A little while ago when I was feeling rather inspired by all the great books I’d been reading I thought it might be a good idea to persuade a few authors (and other bloggers) to read “Out of their comfort zones” to see if perhaps they might be missing out. Its no secret that I am THE biggest fan of both Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy AND Rod Reynolds The Dark Inside and latest book coming in August Black Night Falling. So I handed him a copy of Red Rising to see what would happen and in this case it was a marriage made in heaven – so here is what Rod made of Red Rising and the writing of the incredibly talented Mr Brown. If you havent read either of these authors yet look out at the end for some handy links. And next up in THIS feature soon will be Zoe Markham reading a romance novel…
Reading Outside My Comfort Zone: Red Rising – Rod Reynolds
Red Rising opens with its hero, Darrow, recounting his stoicism on the day his father was hanged. A breathless but harrowing paragraph ends with this:
‘I just watched and thought it a shame that he died dancing without his dancing shoes.’
When you’re hit with a line like that, right at the start, you know you’re in good hands.
Red Rising is the first in a trilogy; set on Mars in the far future, it centres on Darrow and his journey from ‘Helldiving’ miner to sleeper agent and potential chosen one in an end-times quest to overthrow the Golds – a branch of humanity that (initially unbeknownst to Darrow) has enslaved the rest of humanity. That short summary doesn’t do the book’s backstory justice – but that’s all it is, backstory; all of this is known to the reader going in – which speaks to the enormity of the universe the author, Pierce Brown, attempts to create – and the size of the task he sets himself.
Red Rising is advertised as YA – a genre I do not generally read (not out of any snobbery, but simply because I struggle to keep up with all the crime/thriller books on my TBR pile). But having heard Lizzie raving about it, my curiosity was piqued. And I was not disappointed.
Like any great book, it’s hard to pin down exactly what makes it so good – because there is no one facet that does it. I could talk about the quality of the prose – the regularity with which lines as good as the one I quote at the start crop up. I could talk about the characterisation, and how, even with a fairly large cast, each character is vividly rendered. I could talk about the strength of the narrative, and how well the twists and turns are measured out. I could talk about how convincing the universe Brown creates is.
But if you put a gun to my head, the thing that really impressed me about this book and kept me turning the pages was the complexity of the dynamics Brown establishes between his characters. Darrow embeds himself in Gold society, and is surrounded by his enemies – yet he finds himself befriending them despite himself. When confronted with the individual, human face of his enemy, he begins to doubt his quest – even though it is utterly justified. Enemies forge alliances in convincing and compelling fashion. And friends betray each other in ways that drive you to read on to get to the inevitable payback.
All of the characters exhibit some shades of grey in their morality. Most of the Golds are portrayed as human – neither good nor bad, just real. It makes Darrow’s situation that much more difficult – and relatable – and we don’t envy him the choices he has to make. Moreoever, by the end of the book, Darrow finds himself perpetrating acts neither we – nor he – could have imagined him capable of at the start. Being amongst the Golds rubs off on him – forcing us, and him, to question how many red lines he’s willing to cross in the name of a greater good. It’s powerful stuff.
Is the book flawless? Of course not.
Just occasionally, the dialogue gets a little clunky. The plot makes a hard-turn about halfway through, and it becomes apparent that Brown is going to give himself the leisure of all three books before he resolves the story he sets up at the start. And occasionally Brown’s attempts to imbue pathos in his characters err a little too close to melodrama.
But none of that detracts from the fact that this is a big, bold and compelling novel. It feels epic from the off, and it never disappoints and is never less than riveting. I can’t praise it higher than to say I can’t wait to read the next two in the trilogy.
Find out more HERE:
Follow Pierce on Twitter HERE
To purchase the Red Rising Trilogy clickety click HERE
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To Purchase The Dark Inside/Black Night Falling clickety click right HERE