Monday, 22 December 2014

JOINT REVIEW & DISCUSSION || Red Rising by Pierce Brown (with Arianne!)

I have a very special guest helping me with today's review! Arianne who co-blogs over at Reading With ABC very nicely agreed to do this joint review and discussion with me for Red Rising. Now the reason I came up with the idea to do a joint review-ery discussion type post for this book, specifically with Arianne, is because we've talked about it a few times, and she has in fact already reviewed this over on Daisy Chain Book Reviews (which you can see by clicking here) but I did see at the end of her review she mentioned how she could've and should've said more on the book, so the idea of a joint review seemed like a great for me to sort out my own thoughts into a review and to allow Arianne to say even more on the subject!

My answers and replies will be in blue and Arianne's will be in red!

FIONNUALA: I may as well start, shall I? Okay - pretty much jumping into the deep end with this one, if there was one thing in Red Rising that you could immediately get rid of and burn what would it be, and why? I have a feeling I know what you're going to say!

ARIANNE: Ouch, what a tough question to start with! There are issues with the characterisation and world-building in the book, but I think I'd get rid of the misogyny which simply seems to be built-in to the framework of the novel. The way love interest Eo is treated - designed simply to encourage, support and pander to Darrow instead of living her own life; and even worse, forced to sacrifice herself so that he will become "the hero he was meant to be" - is just appalling. She's such a kick-ass character, but she's never given a chance to shine by herself or indeed on an equal footing to Darrow. For me, Red Rising reverses all the hard work done by campaigners trying to make the YA shelf a place where readers can choose books for themselves and not because of gender-based story bias or marketing. It's such a shame, too, as their relationship had so much potential. What about you - is there anything about the book you'd change?

I completely agree, just imagining how different the story would be if Eo was allowed to play a much more crucial, and equalized, role opposite Darrow makes me wish that that version of the book existed. Apart from what you mentioned, I definitely would have liked more world building, personally apart from the sentences when they're stating the obvious it didn't really feel like they were anywhere that was intergalactic - and toward the end it very much felt like it was turning into what you might associate with a dystopian novel more like The Hunger Games (forgive me for the comparison) but it very much publicizes itself as a Science Fiction novel, and I just wasn't getting much SFF in the book. Not that I have a problem with it being dystopian, its by far one of my favourite sub-genre's, but just tell it as it is, you know? Okay, well maybe on a more positive note, what was your favourite scene of the entire book, Arianne?

Thankfully this answer is much more straightforward: I loved any scene with Eo! Specific scenes aside, the plot was brilliantly paced and there were moments when I actually liked Darrow - he just wasn't real or flawed enough for him to become an all-time favourite character for me. 

Speaking of characters, is there any other secondary or minor character you think deserves a mention?

Oooh, I'll be honest here and say I can't remember many of the secondary characters by name, but I did love the character who helped transform Darrow from a Red to a Gold - not for any specific personality trait, but I just really enjoyed the slight exotic-ness he brought to the scene's he was in; a bit like Magnus from The Mortal Instruments.

So on the subject of characters, I did feel like some characters deserved more character development. Obviously, we've spoken about Eo being a main target for a more crucial and equalized role - a lot of the time it seemed to be all "Darrow, Darrow, Darrow" to me. So, which other character, apart from Eo, would you have liked to seen more development/focus on?

I agree with you here. Some of the characters were difficult to tell apart, and practically all of them needed more depth and development. I tried to keep an open mind to most of them, but I absolutely hated Titus. He's one of the most sickeningly evil characters I've ever seen in fiction - and not in a compelling "everyone has a dark side" way. He's rotten to the core. Even more worryingly, it seems like his role in the events of the book is supposed to be entertaining, which it clearly isn't. The gratuitous violence of his character - and of many other characters, including Darrow - is another feature that really ruined the book for me. I love action and danger in the books I read, but Red Rising is so needlessly gory.

Good writers should be able to find different ways to build tension and make consequences felt instead of simply having characters slaughter each other all the time. It's a cheap trick that drains the emotional impact of a novel. Take the book Red Rising is so often compared to - The Hunger Games. As readers, we understand the ruthless cut-throat nature of the arena, but we still feel the emotional earthquake that is the loss of a character, whether that's Rue or Foxface or Cato or (insert a litany of spoilers here). With Red Rising, I just didn't get that, and for me, the storytelling was to blame. 

What about you, Fionnuala - were there any aspects of the storytelling itself that you particularly liked or disliked?

I agree with your point about Titus, I think it could have been slightly understandable if there had been some sort of character arc and transgression to becoming such an evil character - because with the situation they were in in the second half of the book, obviously some people are going to change for the worse and become savage. In no way do I condone this type of violence or would I truly enjoy it in real life, but in the pages of Red Rising I didn't mind the goriness in terms of where they were - so that's obviously a point we differ on! 

On the flip side though I do feel that there was so much potential to really make us feel the loss of characters, I mean even with people who were "close" to Darrow when they died (or worse) it was as though they were crumbs from a muffin that you wouldn't miss, and I personally really disliked that. It seemed like the author was just throwing deaths out left, right and center without anything more.

I definitely have issues with how the second part of the book seems to be completely different to the first half, the writing itself didn't really change but it did seem like two stories were flapped together and apart from the mentions in the second half I could have forgotten they were on Mars. Which, you know, I didn't want to forget! We're on Mars, space, exciting, don't make me forget! It could have been salvaged if the ending was rounded up with a return or something but (as its going to be a series/trilogy) it just felt discontinued which I quite abhor in a book. Similarly, I felt like there was a rapid change in pace once we got to the second half and it felt very abrupt.

I don't know if you've heard but Red Rising has been optioned for a film, what do you think of this development and about bringing Brown's world to the big screen?

I actually think a film version could have a lot of potential - if some major changes are made. Unfortunately, since films which improve on the books are the exception and not the rule, I think I'll have to see more details of the adaptation or even a full trailer before I make a decision. At least in the meantime we have the Mockingjay finale and some other really fantastic YA movies to look forward to, so I doubt we'll get bored!

And this is where my discussion with the fabulous Arianne ends! I had such a great time working on this post with her, and I really hope you enjoyed seeing both our point of views - as you can see even though we did agree on some points its quite clear that whilst it took me a while to get to the point where I've become comfortable with my stance about the book - that I did indeed like it more than Arianne, and fortunately I don't think this has harmed our friendship either, hehe. 

I've finally decided on a rating for Red Rising and I'm giving it three stars. I debated about giving it four stars because I did genuinely enjoy the book during the reading experience and was racing to get to the end because Brown had hooked me on the idea of the plot, but unfortunately when I finished what I was left with was less than satisfactory, hence the conflict and the rather long delay I took trying to decide what I really wanted to give this book. 

If anything the last element that really pushed me to giving Red Rising a lower rating was (and this is something I've come across a lot recently, which is slightly annoying) the fact that I couldn't really make any emotional connection to Darrow - and consequently its hard to get behind a novel when you can't get behind the main character. But having said ALL of that, I still added Red Rising to my Favourite Books of 2014 list (you can check it out here!) because its just stayed with me, and I liked it - it was only the more so technical elements that brought the book down.

You can find Arianne on Twitter @Ariannebooklove!

*Huge thank-you to Hodder & Stoughton for both my copies of Red Rising!*
~ Book Information ~

Book Title: Red Rising
Author: Pierce Brown
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton, January 28th, 2014
Source: ARC from Publisher
Format: Paperback, 382 pages
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository
Darrow is a Helldiver, one of a thousand men and women who live in the vast caves beneath the surface of Mars, generations of people who spend their lives toiling to mine the precious elements that will allow the planet to be terraformed. Just knowing that, one day, people will be able to walk the surface of the planet is enough to justify their sacrifice. The Earth is dying, and Darrow and his people are the only hope humanity has... (~Goodreads)

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