Book Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A few facts about Red Rising:

  • Title: Red Rising
  • Author: Pierce Brown
  • Series: Red Rising Saga (Book One)
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
  • Pages: 401

Synopsis:

Darrow is a Helldiver, one of a thousand men and women who live in the vast caves beneath the surface of Mars, generations of people who spend their lives toiling to mine the precious elements that will allow the planet to be terraformed. Just knowing that, one day, people will be able to walk the surface of the planet is enough to justify their sacrifice. The Earth is dying, and Darrow and his people are the only hope humanity has left.

Until the day Darrow learns that it is all a lie. That Mars has been habitable – and inhabited – for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down at Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.

Until the day Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside.

But the command school is a battlefield – and Darrow isn’t the only student with an agenda.

Ender’s Game meets The Hunger Games in this, the first in an extraordinary trilogy from an incredible new voice. 

(Goodreads)

Review:

Red Rising:

“I would have lived in peace. But my enemies brought me war.”

I can safely say that all the praise this book gets is well deserved! 

I always a little bit nervous when reading works of an author I have not read before, and even more so when said books are so widely loved. Not in the sense id be worried about rating it low, because that doesn’t overly bother me, it is that your expectations are set so high that they can often be the ruin of the book. It works both ways, I have watched films and read books that’s have been slated and loved them because I had such low expectations. Thankfully, those who have praised this book are people who I respect the opinions of and having cracking taste!

It usually takes me a good chunk of time to fall into the rhythm of a new authors writing, especially when in first person. I have nothing against first person, it’s just that for some unknown reason it takes me longer to get into the grove of the writing. However, this was not an issue at all with this book, I fell into it almost too easily.

I have described writing before using words such as clean, simple and sharp. Though, never have I read writing quite so sharp. Pierce does not over embellish his writing, it is straight and to the point, while not seeming inferior or of a lesser standard. There is a quick feeling to his prose, they are swift and effective. That’s not to say there isn’t description there most definitely is, it just felt less prevalent. 

There is something surreal about Pierce’s writing. At first I thought it more magical, when Darrow was describing the beauties of nature he sees or cities but I realised it was actually a part of Darrow. It emphasises the point that he believed his world was baron and red and that it would never be more, that he would never be more. It was incredibly immersive and truly brought out Darrow’s character more and more. 

I found Darrow easy to love, I liked him from the start and that didn’t change. It was very interesting to see the two sides of Darrow, not in a two faced way but we as the reader see a truer version of him whereas the other characters of the book see the image he puts forth.  There is a duel at one point, one of the opponents says ‘to yield’ while Darrow shouts ‘to the death’ and it just clicked how differently the rest of the characters see him to how we see him. I was really cleverly done, I don’t doubt other books do it to some degree but I really saw it in this. 

“Yielding,” Pax says impatiently. “To the death,” I correct. Really it doesn’t matter. I’m just screwing with them at this point. All I have to do is give the signal. “To yielding,” Mustang confirms.”

I felt like I was able to resonate with some of the initial emotions that Darrow experiences. I live in a tiny town, so when I moved to the city for university it was a big shift in gear. I remember I was walking from my university accommodation once and I saw a tractor rolling through Leeds and I nearly peed I was that excited, it is so strange to go from a place you know near everyone and where everyone but the grumps smile at you to a city of drones. A place where you are the strange one for smiling at the person walking past you!

“In Lykos, I would have been jostled by men I’d grown up with, run across girls I’d chased and wrestled with as a child. Here, other Colors slam into me and offer not even a faint apology. This is a city, and I do not like it. I feel alone.”

Pierce also gave us so many other great characters, Sevro was brilliant! Some had past dealings that would make you think them oily and sneaky, others you would pity and some you hated. Pierce makes you feel every brutal emotions for these characters and more.

“Sevro snorts. “What do you think I’ve been doing this whole time, you silky turd? Wanking off in the bushes?”

The descriptions in this book are beautifully done, the forest, the baron slums Darrow lived in, the busy cities full of Colours, are all so vivid and creative. I said earlier that Pierces writing, through the eyes of Darrow, seemed surreal and often magical and it does but Pierce also managed to show us an utterly savage world one win which life is not fair, it is not equal and you do not win. The story gradually gets darker and darker, while still holding tight the dream that this all begun for.

“On Mars there is not much gravity. So you have to pull the feet to break the neck. They let the loved ones do it.”

This book is so fast paced, and it is utterly relentless. I didn’t feel like there was a single point I could put this book down the wheels of the game just kept on churning! Which is probably why I was up until the ass crack of dawn reading this book. So, if you starter reading this book do so early and make sure you have the day free because you will not want to stop.

It is a brilliant start to the series and I cannot wait to read the next book, which is already downloaded on my kindle and ready to be read once I have posted this review!

“Alter the paradigm.”


Book Review: Stormblood by Jeremy Szal

My Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

A few facts about Stormblood:

  • Title: Stormblood
  • Author: Jeremy Szal
  • Series: The Common (Book One)
  • Publisher: Gollancz
  • Pages: 544

Synopsis:

Vakov Fukasawa used to be a Reaper, a biosoldier fighting for the intergalactic governing body of Harmony against a brutal invading empire. Now, he fights against the stormtech: the DNA of an extinct alien race Harmony injected into him, altering his body chemistry and making him permanently addicted to adrenaline and aggression. It made him the perfect soldier, but it also opened a new drug market that has millions hopelessly addicted to their own body chemistry.

But when Harmony tells him that his former ally Reapers are being murdered, Vakov is appalled to discover his estranged brother is likely involved in the killings. They haven’t spoken in years, but Vakov can’t let his brother down, and investigates. But the deeper he goes, the more addicted to stormtech he becomes, and Vakov discovers that the war might not be over after all. It’ll take everything he has to unearth this terrible secret, although doing so might mean betraying his brother. If his own body doesn’t betray him first.

A vibrant and talented new voice in SFF: alien technology, addictive upgrades, a soldier determined to protect his family, and a thief who is prepared to burn the world down . . .

Review:

I wrote down so many little jottings while reading this book, and all were good things. So, here it goes, time to cobble them all together into a semi-cohesive review.

This is my first review of a science fiction book, while I read two books prior to this they were of the same series and where young adult books. While I don’t have an issue with young adult, and enjoy reading them, they are light in nature but often more surface level, if that’s an appropriate descriptions. Anywho, I wanted my first review to be of an adult sci-fi and what a first review to begin with. Stormblood was incredible.

The fact that this is Szal’s debut make it even more so. This book does not feel as though it was written by someone who hasn’t been writing for years.

I’m not going to pretend I know anything about the genre, but what you can find from this review is my thoughts on why I enjoyed this book.

I always find writing and publishing a review a little nerve wracking. It is with reviewers, as it is with authors, you let a little of yourself show in you writing, in the way you interpret a book. No review is unbiased, what we take from a book is subject to what we have lived and felt. What we have longed for, what we miss and what we have experienced.

So, while I am utterly new to this genre I’d like to think my review still counts. 

Let’s do this.

Stormblood is such a fascinating and captivating story, and so well thought out. I can’t tell you any references or similar books/authors to who this book’s tastes will suit but I can tell you it is so much more than what the synopsis suggests. I really didn’t expect this to have such a deep and profound emphasis on many of the topics it does, some being siblings/family, drug abuse, poverty, trauma, brotherhood and camaraderie. 

”People compare overcoming addiction to climbing a mountain, but that assumes there’s a peak to climb towards. Stormtech was more like swimming in an endless, churning sea. You never truly beat it. You just found temporary ways not to drown.”

It’s no secret that I don’t often like flashbacks, though to be honest the last few I have encountered I haven’t minded at all sooooo maybe I’m changing on that front. Annyyyway, where I usually dislike flashbacks I actually really enjoyed those I came across in stormblood. It was a nice way of answering the readers questions but what I enjoyed the most was the little insights into these culture rich memories. I got to experience the different places in the world Szal created through them being the home of a fellow reaper or the location of a current battle.

Szal’s writing is sharp and evocative. I genuinely felt gutted every time Vakov thought of the way things had turned out, each time it sunk in what his situation was. The highlight of this read though, has to be Vakov’s relationships. I cannot express how much I enjoyed watching them develop and grow. No relationship is the same, and all elicit such a level of emotion from the reader.

”But I’ve found friends to occasionally be like magnets: opposing forces attract.

Szal has created a thrilling world, one which you truly experience everything. It is so rich in detail, that you can picture each street and bar they visit, and Vakov and Grim visit a good few of those, they like their drink. There is a massive amount of detailing in this book, and not only in relation to the world building but in Vakov’s interactions, in his thought and feelings and in the tech that is used, especially his armour.

I really enjoyed the grittiness of this world, and when I say gritty I mean it has such a raw and real feel to it. The tone, in a way, reminded me of the film ’End of Watch’ in that it has a strong emphasis on the friendship of it’s characters through the difficult times they face.

”No matter how hard someone tries to knock you down, having someone to lean against, someone who’s got your back, makes it possible to stand up again.”

While the list of characters you meet in this story are on the lower side, which is by no means a criticism, they are all brilliantly compelling. I found Vakov to be really well developed, I loved his story and personality. I especially liked his own emotional confusion, whether his decisions were his own and how things could have been different. 

Szal did brilliantly in writing this book, I was filled with dread at times. When I met other members of Vakovs team through flashback I was genuinely worried for them.  Would one of these reapers he had lived and fought with fall victim next to his present-day situations or his past. He had lost so much, given so much already. 

As well, I enjoyed the reversal of character development, whether you call it that or not, it is how I see it. At the start we find out one of Vakov’s old reaper brothers has become the victim of his current shitstorm, and at the start you don’t really care that he died. Yeah, it’s shit for vakov but you yourself don’t care about the character but through vakov’s flashbacks I found myself caring more and more. Seeing this chap with his team and how he was I grew more and more saddened at his loss. It was a nice spin on charcter development. 

”Home isn’t where you’re born, Vakov. It’s where you feel calm and peace, even in a storm.”

Ohhh and the Mass Effect references in this really tickled my fancy. I love the little inserts such as a character being called Saren and a race not so dissimilar to the krogans. 

***A quick note, the quotes in this are from a Netgalley ARC and may have changed in the publishing of this book***