If You Like…
- Ender’s Game
- Battle Royale
- Game of Thrones
- Interstellar travel
- A nod to the Roman Empire
Then You’ll Like…
The Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown
I was never really a fan of the Hunger Games series/movies, etc. I was more attracted to the hard brutality of Battle Royale and cutthroat politics of House of Cards to give Hunger Games any real consideration. Also, as soon as the fans started taking Team Peeta or Team Gale sides, I was out so fast. There’s nothing that’ll ruin a strong female lead story than the fanbase dividing the characters into relationship camps. It’s so, dare I say it, juvenile.
The combination of Hunger Games, Twilight, Divergent, and other sci-fi/fantasy teen novels taking to the big screen was a huge turn-off for me for a while. I was hankering for something more, something more fantastic than your cookie-cutter dystopian teen fiction.
Enter Red Rising by Pierce Brown. My co-workers and I started an impromptu book club when one of them suggested we read this book. I had obtained a free advanced reader copy at a previous Comic Con, but had put it aside when I lost interest after chapter one. However, my tastes have changed since then, and I picked it up again upon word that Pierce Brown was signing at a local bookstore to promote the second book in the series.
I got through the first chapter, than the second. The third. And didn’t stop. First impression? Holy bejeezus, if you are a Hunger Games fan, Game of Thrones fan, epic science fiction and more, you will love the hell out of this book. Hands down. I devoured the first and went straight into the second, Golden Son, without stopping. (Spoilers aside, the ending of the second book was so brutal to a fan. One of the most suspenseful cliff-hangers ever!)
By the time Pierce Brown’s signing rolled around I was an eager fan in the audience, salivating at any possible hints for the third book. While no details were given, thankfully Brown has recently released the cover art for the third book, Morning Star, and it’s renewed my excitement. What’s more, the rights to the books have been picked up for film, and I have no doubts that they plan for this to be the next big franchise once Hunger Games has worn off.
Now let’s get into why I love this so much, and why it deserves a visual counterpart.
1) Violence and Intrigue
My two favorite things when it comes to choosing books. I want to see humanity’s best and their worst, and boy does it show here. Similar to other dystopian fiction we’ve seen, the Red Rising future shows a world where humanity is divided into sub-groups based on genetic modification, a futuristic caste system in other words, in order to maintain order as we colonize our solar system. Humans have colonies as far as Pluto, in a vast empire governed by the Gold caste and colored-underlings who follow orders. Click here for Pierce Brown’s hierarchy design for the trilogy. At the bottom of the hierarchy, you have the Reds where our titular character, Darrow, was born.
2) Hero or Villain? The choice is yours.
Much like a honey badger, Darrow don’t care what you think. He didn’t start out that way in the first book, but by the second he changed into the honey-badger-don’t-give-a-crap that I love when it comes to fictional characters.
What makes Darrow interesting is how his motivations change throughout the story. He is essentially being used as a tool for the rebellion to infiltrate the Gold society. What they didn’t really plan was what Darrow would do once he got there, which leaves a lot of suspense in its wake.
At first Darrow’s motivation to go through with this espionage is love. But in later events, he realizes that love alone will not see him through this, and tacks on good old-fashioned vengeance as a second motivator. By the end, love and vengeance have fallen to the wayside and he changes to moving forward for what I call the “Spock Slogan”: the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one. What happens next, we won’t know until the third book.
Since the books are from Darrow’s POV, the constant change in his mindset is fascinating. He begins as a tool and ends the second books as a leader and conqueror, but the sacrifices it took to get there are intriguing. You may hate him; you may love him; but regardless he’ll make you ask yourself that age-old question of “what would you do?”
3) Cinematic as Hell
I like to compare Pierce Brown’s writing to James Patterson. You can guffaw all you want about James Patterson, but the fact remains that his writing emphasizes speed. Blink and you’ll miss a detail that’ll come into play later. Chapters are short, succinct, and always end with bitten nails. Brown is similar, especially from Darrow’s POV, and it would translate fantastically to visual.
The speed of the writing, combined with contradictory morals and an enormous world to play with is what makes this series so ripe for television or film. Imagine if the ancient Roman Empire had survived to take over our solar system. That’s essentially the society in a nutshell. The world is vast, stretching beyond a space station or two; it’s all the way to Pluto and the many moons that surround out planets.
The only issues I can foresee are two things: figuring out how to translate Darrow’s thoughts to film, so his actions don’t make him out to be a big douche; and second is the violence. Much like how the Roman Empire was steeped in blood, so is this book series. There’s a lot of killing in the first book, from beheadings and whippings, to a damn crucifixion. However, these are actually essential to the dynamics of the characters in the first book. But with the emergence of Kingsman: The Secret Service and it’s rated R teen violence, I have high hopes that perhaps it won’t all be removed.
If you’re looking for something new with Hunger Games/Divergent/Harry Potter/Star Wars withdrawal, look no further than the Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown. It’s got everything you loved and missed about these series, science fiction, and more.
Will Make You Feel: Like going out and doing some conquering
Music to Listen to While Reading: The Civil Wars
Publisher: Del Rey Books