Red Rising - Pierce Brown [Red Rising Trilogy]
Original Review: March 13, 2017
One of the first things I notice - and not in an understandable, this is a completely different culture way - is the selling. With the c's and the k's and the lack of consistency. There isn't consistency to the how & why, and there's no reason for it. It's distracting. Why didn't Brown just come up with new words? Or, better yet, just leave the spelling alone?
Chapter brakes & scene transitions are messy and awkward. And by Chapter 4, things have become predictable. No true building of conflict. Not one I'd care about, anyway. I try to imagine what I'm reading, try to put myself into the world Brown is creating, and I can't. The seams are too visible.
The transitions get smoother as I read, which is a shame. How many readers have already been lost by now? This improvement gives me hope, though. I hadn't reached my decision point by then, so there was still time. But the progression remained predictable. You can't put your main character in life-or-death situations so early (or so many times) without cuing the reader he'll survive. And for what? It's supposed to cause suspense, I'm sure, but fails.
There are a lot of questions early on, but none of them seem all that consequential. Things are made out to be horrible, with no given reason as to why. And if that's the point, and a critical thinker can't truly pick up on it, how will the average reader?
The further I got into the story, the more satisfied I became. The imagery was easier to picture, to immerse myself in. The attitudes and mannerisms of the characters become not so dull and monotonous.
There is a substantial disconnect between the segments of underground vs. above-ground, though (and if that's a spoiler, I think you're in the wrong genre...) and probably not in the way Brown had hopes. People, especially ones in new & shocking situations, tend to revert to their base natures. Darrow's discipline, from being raised in the mines and the constant introduction of perception-shattering data could explain his apparent stoicism, but this is never explained. Darrow's state of mind, his ability to process everything "new & shiny" is never explored. There is no self reflection. Only observations, pitifully disguised as such.
I finally start getting absorbed into the story at about 100 pages in. Finally, things stop being so predictable and dull. (Yes, I use the word "dull" a lot when reviewing these books. Sad.) We still aren't getting much self-reflection out of Darrow, but the story is getting more interesting. Though I feel I should be much further through the story. A lot could have been left out, or done differently, to make the pace actually match the real estate of the book. For as quickly as I get interested, I get bored just as fast.
There is a message here, but it is so muddled and vague. But it's there. Brown must face something like Darrow when he writes his story. A question. How far to take it?
It's a pity how uninspiring the book turned out to be. There are good lessons, good ideals to be had. They just weren't driven home. However, Brown has proven skillful at manipulating, The Society he depicts should be hated and despised. They've grown worlds on the backs of slaves who've no idea they are slaves. Yet you could almost sympathize - or at least feel a little sorry for - how the children are turned into their leaders.
The good news? Once I got past the halfway point, I was absorbed. I'm not a fan of the similarities to the first book of the Hunger Games, but having all of the other background and details made it different enough to stand on its own. The action is good, well written, and engaging enough to keep me from finding something else to critique. But it took a long time to get there. I could easily see this as a movie, where the entire first 1/2 of the book would take a good 2/3 of the movie, where it should realistically only take up a few opening scenes. The pacing is uneven.
When I finish reading - it's like what the hell just happened? The first half of the book vs. the second half... what switch was flipped in Brown's brain for the second half? The only thing keeping me from immediately going out to the second book is the first half of this one. I'm going to read it - and soon - but I'm not nearly as excited about it as I could be.