I wanted to hate this book - I really did. Kid from oppressed mining caste ends up in arena fighting against other teenagers? Does sound familiar, doesn't it. It was very obvious from very early that Pierce Brown's debut novel is an attempt to ride on the coat-tails of the fabulous success of The Hunger Games.
Not that it's the same story - Darrow is recruited by the resistance before he enters the arena and is more obviously an adult than Katniss Everdeen. But still. I wanted to hate it.
There's a problem. Red Rising might be an attempt to follow The Hunger Games - but it's a good attempt to follow The Hunger Games. True, Brown's work lacks the deep emotional impact of Collins' - the emotional impact that has led me to consider Hunger Games to be the best anti-war novel of recent years. But it is still good. His protagonist manages to be likable despite his darkness and willingness to do what it takes to win the game for his people...but one wonders how his revolution will fare. The copy I got was an ARC and marked "uncorrected proofs", but I still found no obvious errors, which is rare these days even in a book from a major publisher.
I can't go into what I loved about it without spoilers, but this book is the kind of solid debut novel that makes one hope for a long and healthy career for the author. It's the first of a trilogy and I am certainly convinced to look for books two and three.
I have a strong dislike of riding on people's coat-tails, but Brown pulls it off. His future Mars is well-realized, whilst explaining no more of its complicated society and caste system than is needed for the story (Too many debut novelists waste time on exposition that isn't necessary). His worldbuilding is there, and so is his story. I'm honestly a little jealous.
Four and a half stars.
(Copy picked up for free at Balticon)