Posted: August 10, 2016 in Book Reviews

red rising

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

382 pages

It is the distant future. Society has moved beyond the confines of this Earth and has colonize the solar system. People live on Mars, the Earth’s moon as well as the moons and other planets of the solar system. Society has been divided into different classes of people labelled and identified by color. Golds being the highest class of society and red being the lowest. Democracy has been outlawed as a system of government that is evil, horrible, ineffective and useless.

Our Hero Darrow is one of the Reds. He is what they call a helldiver and works the sub terrarium mining colonies of mars mining precious minerals. He and the rest of those like him believe they are mining for the material needed to terraform mars and make it habitable for humanity on the surface.

Like the other mining colonies on mars the reds are not permitted on the surface of mars and are born, live, and die under the surface of Mars. Darrow is 16, he is married. His wife Eo however is a bit of a rebel. She takes Darrow to a secret garden above ground that no one is supposed to know about. Darrow soon learns the consequences of this action as he must watch his wife die by hanging at the hands of a Gold. Governor Nero Au Augustus of Mars. This is the start of something our hero never knew was possible or even existed. He soon learns the truth and finds himself on a mission of liberation for himself and his people. The Red will soon being to Rise.

Reminiscent of the hunger games and Harry Potter; Darrow is not only drafted, like the sorting in harry potter, into a house he is soon thrown into a game of war pitted against other kids like him where he must kill or be killed, enslave or be enslaved. All of these kids at the institute are looking to be sponsored, win the game and receive praise, honor, glory. Their respective houses are looking to win the competition at this school for the elite and ruling class of society. The winners will move on to become the elite of the elite, ruler of the rulers. Commander of military and government. The losers fail to get more than they were born to.

While the story ideas and concept are not original in their origins I have always loved stories about the rebel. This is something that appeals to many in our popular culture. Just look at our media and most popular stories, Star Wars for example is about a band of rebels going to war with an evil emperor who rules the galaxy. Hunger games is another good example. These stories appeal to us as we value freedom and liberty as a people. This is one of those kinds of stories. What is unique is the setting if not the ideas and elements themselves. Many science fiction stories have taken place on mars or other worlds but This is the first one I have read about a dystopian future of humanity on mars itself.

I do have some critiques for this story. I know I tend to get hung up on technicalities but sometimes these things really bug me when they do not fit in with the story or make no sense to the reality as we understand it. The thing with science fiction is you can make up any technology you want, but when dealing with things that are rooted in proven, verifiable and understandable science and not technology based it moves into the realm of fantasy not science fiction. While one can mix fantasy and science fiction that needs to be clear to the reader.

Throughout the book there are many references to martian gravity compared to Earth gravity. Mars gravity is about 0.38 the strength of Earth. Several times the characters abilities and things that happen are explained because of this difference. Eo’s hanging for example it tells us due to the low gravity her neck does not actually break so it must be broken. Characters can run faster, jump higher and farther for example. Because of the gravitational difference the average adult man weighing 177 pounds would then weigh only 67 pounds approximately on mars. This difference, at least according to the author, is what seems to give these super human capabilities. The problem with this presentation within the book however boils down to basic gravitational biology. Wikipedia describes it this way

Gravitational biology is the study of the effects gravity has on living organisms. Throughout the history of the Earth life has evolved to survive changing conditions, such as changes in the climate and habitat. However, one constant factor in evolution since life first began on Earth is the force of gravity. As a consequence, all biological processes are accustomed to the ever-present force of gravity and even small variations in this force can have significant impact on the health and function of organisms.[1]

“The effects of gravity on many-celled organisms is considerably more drastic. In larger terrestrial vertebrates gravitational forces influence musculoskeletal systems, fluid distribution, and hydrodynamics of the circulation.”

Simply put for a culture and people who have been born, raised, and grew up on Mars, there is no biologically possible way that they would develop and grow to have the same bone strength, muscle strength, heart, circulation etc… that they would if they grew up, were born and raised on Earth without technological body enhancement. Going to Earth would cause them to become 3 times heavier, and 3 times weaker. The way this fact is dealt with in this book however would suggest if they were to go to Earth they would have a fully normal human abilities and strengths like you and me. Their abilities are explained because of the low gravity, but in reality their bodies would be adapted to that, and for them it would be the same as us here on Earth.

One of the other things the books talks a bit about is the age of the characters. It suggests they are just kids and young adults. Teenagers. Darrow is 16 years old. This age seems to be measured by Earth standard year. This also does not seem to make sense for me. Think about what humanity will be hundreds of years from now. Perhaps when mars is its own society and culture of humanity does it really make any kind of rational or logical sense that time would be measured based on Earth standard?  Realistically it makes a lot more sense to me that the years and calendar would be measured based on the martian year. If the Earth itself is divided into 24 time zones how can a different planet with different length days and years be measured by the same time standard as Earth? If our hero, Darrow is only 16 earth years old as the story suggests, then in reality he is 8.5 years old on mars, if he is 16 by martian years then he is 30 earth years old.

While I can appreciated trying to keep these things simple for the reader, I do feel when a writer takes reality and ignores it for the sake of writing a good story it, for me at least, takes away from the story and honesty ruins the story a bit for me. If it does not make sense, then it cannot be true. As a writer their job is to created a plausible story with a plausible reality to support that story. Pierce Brown fails in this regard when it comes to the gravitational biology aspect of his writing.

Overall I would give this book a 6/10 book worms, would have been at least a 8 if not for the problems I have highlighted. Still a good and enjoyable read with some great story and plot lines. I will be reading the other books in this trilogy when I get them.

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