roman gods

Red Rising, and its two sequels in the trilogy of the same name, have been hailed as the equal of the Hunger Games Trilogy. The series’ hero, Darrow, has been likened to Ender Wiggin of Orson Scott Card’s classic four-book science fiction series as well as Katniss Everdeen of the Hunger Games. I suspect the likeness is not accidental.

If you concoct a Hero’s Journey along the lines Joseph Campbell described, sketch out a fearless teenage protagonist, and throw in a smattering of love interest, chances are good you’ll gain a following not just among the 14-year-old boys who are the core readers of science fiction but older readers of both sexes as well. If you write reasonably well, as Pierce Brown does, you’ve got a shot at a best-selling series. In any case, whether the resemblance is or is not accidental, Mr. Brown scored with this one.

Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy #1) by Pierce Brown @@ (2 out of 5)

In Red Rising, 16-year-old Darrow is devastated when the ruler of the planet Mars executes his beloved wife. (Yes, they’re all human.) Inspired by her bravery, Darrow sets out to lead a revolution to free not just his fellow Reds on Mars but the people of other “low-Color” castes in human settlements throughout the Solar System. The story is set many hundreds of years in the future, probably the 29th or 30th century, and humanity has been forced into a brutal caste system ruled over by the wealthy and powerful Golds. Reds work the mines underground. Pinks are prostitutes of both sexes. Obsidians are fearful soldiers and guardians of the realm. And so forth. To take down this evil system, Darrow must first pass a series of life-threatening tasks and gain an apprenticeship with one of the leading Gold families. From that high perch, he can gain the power he needs to lead the revolution. Does this all sound a little like Ulysses or Jason and the Golden Fleece? Of course! Darrow’s unsteady progress toward his goal is the subject of this, the first volume of Brown’s trilogy.

If the author had demonstrated more creativity in naming and describing his characters, as Suzanne Collins did in The Hunger Games, Red Rising might have been more entertaining. Unfortunately, Brown based most of his characters on the Roman gods who lived on Mount Olympus and descended to meddle in human affairs from time to time. With characters named Apollo, Jupiter, Minerva, Juno, Venus, Diana, Ceres, Vulcan, and Mercury, Red Rising eventually becomes tedious indeed, especially when they are literally (and repeatedly) referred to as gods.

Too bad. I love a good science fiction novel. This one wasn’t.

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