By Pierce Brown
You might see a pattern in my book reviews lately, Bone Clocks, Annihilation, all recent fantasy award winners or mentions. And now Red Rising, which seems to straddle genres. I have been disappointed with some scifi awards, not only with the politics, but also the quality of the books themselves. In looking to fantasy awards, I have not been completely disappointed. Bone Clocks was great, and not just because the author lived a life very similar to mine (he lived and worked in Japan for many years). Now Red Rising is also on my list of fun entertaining reads.
Red Rising straddles genres (though the same can be said of Bone Clocks). It is set in a futuristic dystopian, hierarchical society a la Hunger Games. I enjoyed the intentional mix of fantasy sword and armor with the promise of solar-system wide space opera. The names and setting associate firmly with mythology. And it follows – nearly to the letter – the 17 stages of the hero’s journey. Mr. Brown studied his storytelling well.
As such, the story is not, well, original. And that is totally ok. There is a reason the hero’s journey is the hero’s journey. People like it. It satisfies. It even has references to mythic hero’s conquering heaven – which makes sense in a milieu of space opera.
It is also very much a Hunger Games story. Not unsurprisingly, that too is a hero’s journey story. The decorations and names are different, but the stratified society keeping the slaves down in the dirt is the same. Instead of District 12, it is the Reds. Instead of the Capitol, the evil power is the Golds. The character is different, motivations are different, setting is different. But the slaves-vs.-powers-that-be is the same.
It is no surprise that the book has been optioned for a movie by Universal. I’ll watch it.