Red Rising

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Red Rising Book Poster Image
Incessant cruelty spoils action-packed sci-fi saga.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 8 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Martian society in Red Rising is patterned after the ancient traditions of Greece and Rome, with Houses named for Minerva, Aphrodite, Jupiter, and other mythological figures. Ancient philosophers are sometimes quoted to justify present-day actions.

Positive Messages

Red Rising is a novel about revenge, cruelty, and deception on a grand scale. The series may eventually turn out to be a cautionary tale about the dangers of vengeance, but that theme may not be readily apparent to teen readers. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Throughout Red Rising, the reader is supposed to root for Darrow as he plots his revenge against the Golds who destroyed his family and enslaved his people. Unfortunately, Darrow must be nearly as cruel as his tormentors for his plan to succeed. He usually feels bad about his worst behavior and manages to avoid being truly abominable. But some younger readers may not see the gray areas in how he is presented.

Violence

Red Rising is extremely violent, from start to finish. Physical combat seems to be part of nearly every scene. Darrow and the supporting characters are stabbed, impaled, whipped, hung by the neck, hacked at with axes, and electrocuted. Although it happens offstage, women are raped and enslaved.by opposing factions.

Sex

At the start of Red Rising, Darrow and Eo are both 16, married.and presumably share an adult sex life. After Eo is killed, Darrow forms a relationship with another young woman, Mustang. They sleep together for warmth, but there are few other details about their physical intimacy. 

Language

The language is Red Rising is rough, with multiple uses of "s--t," "a--hole," "prick," "piss," "hell," and "damn," along with setting-specific slang such as "bloodydamn" and "gorydamn," The aggressive male characters are fond of threatening to urinate on each other.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Darrow and his companions pretend to get drunk to surprise their enemies.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Red Rising is a science-fiction adventure story set in a mining colony on Mars, the first of a planned trilogy. It's filled with nonstop action, extreme violence, and coarse language, with multiple uses of "s--t," "a--hole," "prick," "piss," "hell," and "damn," along with setting-specific slang such as "bloodydamn" and "gorydamn." Physical combat is a part of nearly every scene. Protagonist Darrow and the supporting characters are stabbed, impaled, whipped, hung by the neck, hacked at with axes, and electrocuted. Although it happens offstage, women are raped and enslaved. Sexual content is minimal: The main character is married and widowed at 16, and later begins another romantic relationship, the details of which are vague. The series may eventually turn out to be a cautionary tale about the dangers of vengeance, but that theme may not be readily apparent to teen readers.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byCicero44 April 5, 2015
Common sense media couldn't tell a good book if it hit them in the face. Pierce Brown paints a masterful picture with his writing, creating an in-depth wor... Continue reading
Adult Written bysiddarthaekalavya April 19, 2015

Irresistible to put down

I love Red Rising series. Its so entertaining and exhilarating. Its cunning, strategic, unpredictable not knowing what happens next. What else it has everything... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byLucan1010 October 20, 2015

Powerful story with strong violence

Violence: Strong, bloody violence between teens, similar to that in the hunger games, just more intense. Language: Frequent moderate and mild language, such a... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byParkaPan November 30, 2016

Inspiring

As a fifteen year old attending high school, this book has become my favorite book to read. The story expands in an unpredictable and clever manner, often times... Continue reading

What's the story?

In the color-coded society of future Mars, Darrow is a Red who spends his days underground, mining helium-3 for the Golds, who live on the surface and are supposedly terraforming the planet for the good of all. After his wife is sentenced to death, Darrow swears vengeance on his family's oppressors. When he's given that chance, he learns that nearly everything he's been told is a lie. Darrow undergoes a harrowing physical transformation so that he can pass as a Gold warrior, but if he's to survive, he may have to adopt the worst aspects of those he would betray.

Is it any good?

RED RISING is action-packed, suspenseful, and frequently clever, a futuristic riff on The Count of Monte CristoUnfortunately, its better qualities are buried by the melodramatic posturing of its protagonist and by the incessant cruelty of its plot and supporting players. Author Pierce Brown clearly has a strategy for the long haul, in which lessons will be learned about the cost of vengeance, but the constant violence, aggressive language, and general unpleasantness of nearly every character overshadows and undercuts any positive message.

Older teens may respond to the high emotional level of the writing, but some may miss the point that Darrow's attitudes and actions are not to be emulated.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why science fiction stories about teens participating in deadly contests are so popular. What is it about works like The Hunger Games or Ender's Game that appeals to young readers?

  • What makes a good leader? Bravery? Empathy? Ruthlessness?

  • What are the drawbacks of trying to win at any cost?

Book details

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