What parents need to know
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.
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 Cristo. Unfortunately, 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.
Families can talk 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?