Red Rising is my 2021 book of the year. I don’t care if Naomi Novik comes out with ten more books or if there is a surprise release of Alecto the Ninth. Short of Doors of Stone miraculously appearing, I don’t think I’m going to change my mind.
There is a peculiar thing that happens when you find a book written just for you, where you cease to be able to examine it objectively. I don’t think I’m qualified to tell you if Red Rising is good or not, just that I really, really liked it. It’s a space opera version of The Hunger Games with a dash of Lord of the Flies sprinkled in. The protagonist is a hyper-competent badass fighting a corrupt system with the combined powers of lateral thinking and being insane. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted from a science fiction novel.
That said, I do think it has actual merits. I haven’t really noticed anything off about the prose, and the narrator’s voice is consistent and interesting. The world is extremely bleak, which makes the lighthearted moments shine a little brighter. I found myself invested in the characters, which was pleasantly harrowing, given that they are clad in tissue-paper thin plot armor. And, unlike a lot of books I’ve read recently, Red Rising manages to struggle with some questions about revolution and society while also still being fun. It also packs quite a punch; it’s been a long time since a novel has broken my heart and kept me reading. It’s not a gentle book.
I don’t know if others will like it as much as I did, but if “Hunger Games but in space if Katniss had Jedi-like combat ability, had the personality of a Shōnen protagonist and had likable friends,” sounds good to you you should absolutely read this book.
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