Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition where a person has difficulty recovering after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. Red Rising by Pierce Brown was so brutal, that I was in shock for days after I finished reading the book. The author gave me a literary PTSD, he was so good.
Pierce Brown had put me on the front seat of a roller coaster ride into Darrow’s painful transformation and the harsh lessons he had to learn on the most unforgiving university I have ever encountered. The author successfully forced me to experience every painstaking decision, betrayal and grief along with the triumphs.
Every realization – even the ones that were so corrupted, I absorbed until I was sure that the battlefield that was his classroom would ruin him. Darrow was the tarnished hero that lived for another’s dream without knowing how to pursue it and survive. And he was a sponge that absorbed every lesson that was thrown at him.
Motivated by Love
Darrow’s wife gave him a dream, believed that he was special. His rival-turned-ally saw that he was a great leader and taught him how to conquer the obstacles between him and the dream he carried in his heart.
Through all his trials, he claimed that love motivated him. The old one taught him to live for more, the new one empowered him to win.
He was content with his lot in life when the story started. This made me doubt his conviction to fight for the dream of rising from the caste he was born in. It was not his dream after all, he didn’t feel oppressed. But he clung to the memory of his wife, and her dream was all he had left of her.
The contrast between this sensitive man who only lived for love and the brutal trials he went through delivered the crushing blows throughout the story. Here was a man who would sing to comfort someone he was nursing back to health, and he was being forced to murder, raid, and conquer territories to win a competition.
He was learning how to think like the enemies he was trying to infiltrate. Coming to the realization that they had to do terrible things to keep their power and station in life. And he had the choice to be like them or be better, to be the hero he was born to be.
To help his race, he had to become one of the enemy. Instead of fighting them out in the open, he had to join them and rise to power and influence.
And after everything he went through, he had to face the fact that it all meant nothing. He would need to start again, it didn’t matter if he ranked first in his class. Darrow needed the support of the corrupted men who killed his family for wanting more – who almost killed him.
He had won nothing. His battle was only beginning.