I love Red Rising, but this book took OVER A MONTH for me to finish. Yes, I am unusually slow reader, but not that slow. A “slow read“ for me is about a week, maybe 10 days, not an entire goddamn month!
Red Rising isn’t a “slow read” in the traditional sense, though. It’s not boring or stupid. It’s not particularly dense or long. It’s not Ulysses or Shakespeare. But damn, it is a heavy book! Red Rising is a 300+ page, month-long heartbreak. It’s violent, tragic, and gut-wrenchingly angsty. If you like midnight-dark fiction, this is for you. But for me, it was a hard read.
The Red Rising universe is an elaborately futuristic one: humans spread out across the galaxy long ago, from the moon to Mars and beyond. Humanity is (–TOTAL SHOCKER–) strictly stratified. But instead of fracturing their world(s) based on ye olde prejudices like classism, racism, and sexism, the humans of Red Rising fracture their society by human-defined colors: “Golds” rule at the top, “Reds” labor at the bottom, and all colors of the rainbow are stuck in between. Social mobility is not a thing – not until one lowly “Red” decides to fight his way to the top.
The oppression, propaganda and violence that hold the people of Mars in place are intensely, uncomfortably familiar. Despite the futuristic setting and the alien planet, the power dynamics and the violence are sickeningly similar to the horrors of our own world. And just like the sickening power dynamics of this world, it was difficult to read.
I read this books in GIANT CHUNKS. I’d read till I was falling asleep over my keyboard, then put the book away for days, hesitant to pick it up again. Despite the fascinatingly detailed world, despite the utterly, familiarly real characters, despite a story that made me completely invested and dying to know what happened next…… my stomach turned at every page, and sometimes I just did not want to continue.
It is a violent book.
This is not a softened, romanticized story of revolution. The characters are visceral, they are passionate and fearful and angry and hate-filled. The action is…. what you would expect from a story about one people oppressing another. And I’m no stranger to violent, dystopic fiction. That’s a huge chunk of what I read. And I really did love Red Rising. I love the ambiguity, the realness, to this book.
But I can’t feel excited reading violence – real or fictional.
Fiction that mirrors reality – even in a completely alien world – makes me feel an outrage and frustration that just hits way too close to home. As a teenager blissfully unaware of the real world, violent dystopias were fascinating. But now…. it’s just too horrifically familiar. Somewhere along the way to growing up, I seem to have lost my ability to read this kind of book.
Red Rising is a series – or it will be shortly. But I don’t know if I’ll make the jump to Book 2. I don’t know if I want to add more violence and horror to my bookshelf. There’s enough non-fiction for that :/