Book Reviews, Charles, Fiction, Foundationalism, Post-Liberalism, Science, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Social Behavior, Technology
comments 19

Red Rising (Pierce Brown)

“I would have lived in peace, but my enemies brought me war.” This is the attention-grabbing opening line of Red Rising, the first book in a popular young-adult science fiction trilogy, published between 2014 and 2016. The author, Pierce Brown, aims to draw Space Rome in roughly A.D. 3000. Within these books (the other two are Golden Son and Morning Star, and I read all three) are themes that could be fascinating, of hierarchy and oppression, of love and war, of duty and honor, of the price a man will pay to make his dreams real, of how our future should be organized. But, sadly, it’s all downhill after the first line, straight into the pit.

The core problem is that Brown cripples his books by refracting Space Rome through Late-Stage Leftism. This creates a funhouse mirror sensibility, where lines of action and behavior become nonsensical and confused, jarring the reader out of the story on nearly every page. The feel of the books is doubly odd because, deliberately or not, Brown’s stories seem at first like they might lean Right—the chief protagonist is a heterosexual male with a keen sense of honor and duty, for example, something rarely, if ever, found in today’s young adult fiction. But reality, that fundamental Right characteristic, is totally missing in Brown’s trilogy. Now, that may seem like a stupid objection. After all, no part of Space Rome is real, last I checked. What I mean, however, is that little of Brown’s story reflects the reality of how men and women make choices and interact with each other and the wider universe.

Print (PDF)

You Should Subscribe. It's Free!

You can subscribe to writings published in The Worthy House. In these days of massive censorship, this is wise, even if you normally consume The Worthy House on some other platform.

If you subscribe will get a notification of all new writings by email. You will get no spam, of course.  And we do not and will not solicit you; we neither need nor accept money.

That said, the world of Red Rising is cleverly built. Mankind has conquered the entire Solar System, completely terraforming all the smaller planets and the larger moons of the gas giants. The first planetary body terraformed was the Moon, and seven hundred years before the events of the trilogy, the rulers of Luna destroyed the decayed empires of Earth (using men dropped from orbit in armored spacesuits, the “Iron Rain,” an idea Brown stole from Starship Troopers) and then expanded outward. This expansion was made possible largely by genetic engineering, and it is that engineering which is the central plot device of the trilogy.

Mankind is divided into fourteen castes, each genetically engineered for a specific hierarchical and practical role. At the top is Gold; at the bottom is Red. They include Silver (“innovators, financiers, and businessmen”), Blue (“pilots and astronavigators bred to crew starships”), and Obsidian (“a monstrous race bred only for war”). Each caste is physically unique and identifiable, both by gross characteristics (Obsidians are huge) and, more importantly, by hair and eye color, along with embedded “sigils” on the back of each hand. Cross-breeding is impossible, so really, these are separate species.

Already here the disconnect from reality shows up. The genetic engineering makes no sense. These people can directly edit DNA with great subtlety, but all changes are exclusively physical—greater or lesser height and strength, along with superficial cosmetic changes such as hair and eye color. Even there, the “slave” class, the Reds, are portrayed as being identical in physical capacity to average humans of today. If you were designing a slave class, wouldn’t you make them stronger, as you did with the Obsidians? More to the point, wouldn’t you change their personality to be subservient? But what really gives the game away is that each caste is portrayed as being equally intelligent, in order to avoid touching in any way on one of the greatest Left taboos of all, admitting that human groups in the twenty-first century vary in intelligence. We are told explicitly that Golds are made to be “a superior brand of humanity,” but apparently it never occurred to anybody to improve their intelligence, or improve other genetically-linked undesirable characteristics common among some human groups, such as high time preference and lack of impulse control.

Anyway, the hero is a Red from Mars, a sixteen-year-old boy named Darrow (no last name, not even an informal patronymic, another strange omission, given no society of any complexity has ever made it impossible to identify individuals to third parties). On Mars, most of the Reds, millions of them, live harsh lives, entirely underground, mining helium-3 in hundreds of different, unconnected mines (Darrow’s is called Lykos; most of the names in the book are a farrago of Greek and Latin). The miners are told, and they believe, that they are part of a grand project to terraform Mars, which thanks to their efforts will someday be suitable for human habitation. (Technically, therefore, they are not slaves, but men bound to the land.) From them is concealed that the surface of Mars is already a paradise. Mining is an extremely dangerous job, and the lives of the Reds are short and physically brutal—although their society is depicted as virtuous and strong. Sex roles in Lykos are sensible. Women aren’t allowed to be miners, and the only births of children in the entire trilogy occur there (occasionally children appear elsewhere, as if by magic, never attended to by a mother). Homosexuality is regarded as vile. Hard work is honored. Religious belief is the norm. Lykos is, in essence, right-wing.

You’d think this would make Haywood happy, given Darrow’s love for his home, which never wavers. But we see, by the end of the first book, that the right-wing flavor in Lykos is meant to be read as integral to their slave status. Only when the Reds rebel can they achieve the total emancipation, from reality, from natural hierarchy, and from all other unchosen bonds, that is the right of every man and woman. This pretty much encapsulates Brown’s propaganda project. Darrow’s claim that he would have lived in peace, had his enemies not brought him war, is false. Darrow could never have lived in peace, Brown implies, because obtaining emancipation requires war against reality and those who adhere to it.

The Reds are kept down by a variety of control mechanisms, among them limits on food and medicine. The miners’ ruler, from their perspective, is their local mine administrator, whose superior is the Arch-Governor of Mars. The relevant control limitation, for the plot, is that singing a particular song, seen as emblematic of rebellion, results in prompt execution by hanging (with the added gruesome touch that due to low gravity, the victim’s relatives have to pull on the victim’s feet to hasten death). (It is never really explained why the miners would rebel, and to what end, given what they universally believe about the surface of Mars, but let’s ignore that.) Darrow’s father was executed some years before, and the rising of the title is sparked by the execution, by the Arch-Governor, of Darrow’s young (and pregnant) wife Eo, for singing the same song. Hence the opening line of the second book: “Once upon a time, a man came from the sky and killed my wife.”

Darrow tries to get himself executed too, and nearly succeeds, but is rescued by the Sons of Ares, a mysterious group dedicated to overthrowing the existing order. They reengineer him as a Gold, and send him off to infiltrate and then destroy the society of the Golds. The remainder of the trilogy is the implementation of this plan—its ups and downs, its betrayals and heroism, the accommodations Darrow has to make, and so forth. The action takes place all across the Solar System, and millions die. Brown reaches for a grand scope, you have to give that to him.

At first, it’s pretty compelling. Brown writes competently, if repetitively and with a lot of cardboard characters and purple prose, and the story seems different than most young adult fiction (looking at the current bestseller lists for such fiction, the books all seem devoted to worshipping fierce women and celebrating delicate male homosexuals). You can get through the first book and not be wholly dissatisfied. But what makes the books increasingly unreadable is three things. First, they’re bloated, padded with endless interchangeable fight scenes. They’re well-enough-done fight scenes, and I enjoy fight scenes. But most of them could have, and should have, taken place off-camera. Second, the technology is all magic, with no attempt to explain it, and zero coherency even within its magical frame. Anti-gravity is common, but spaceship propulsion is not tied to anti-gravity? And, as with spells and tools in Harry Potter books, very frequently some unexplained new technology is introduced a single time as a deus ex machina, and never heard of again, even when it would be just the thing for another situation.

Third, the books jar the reader most of all, endlessly, painfully, by their treatment of women. Or, more accurately, by their erasure of women. There is not a single woman character in these books, other than Darrow’s dead wife, and Darrow’s mother. Oh, there are many men with female names, who we are told have female anatomy. But not only does not a single one of these people act in any way that could be called feminine, their physical abilities are literally indistinguishable, except to the extent superior, to every man, and their psychological drives are purely male. Sexual dimorphism does not meaningfully exist. In this regard, this trilogy is the farthest thing from Space Rome, or from any real human society, possible.

None of the men in this book, not a single one, would have any reason to be attracted to any of the women. There is nothing alluring, nothing feminine, nothing but sheer repulsion that any man, and even more so the fighting alphas who populate these pages, would feel for these women, who would all be treated with contempt and disgust, seen as distasteful freaks, in the real world, whether that of Space Rome or any other period of human history.

Nearly every character is a warrior; as I say, this is a book about fighting. All male warriors have faults and idiosyncrasies, and some are occasionally used as comic relief. Female warriors are invariably flawless, driven solely by blood lust and the desire to dominate and conquer. Their only faults are caring too much about winning and working too hard to kill their enemies. The greatest individual warrior in all the Solar System is, of course, a woman. At the end, when Darrow has defeated and slain the “Sovereign,” the female ruler of the Solar System (who overthrew and killed her own father in her lust for power, and is defended by the aforementioned greatest individual warrior of all, who requires four men to defeat her in simultaneous combat), he does not seize the ultimate power for which he has suffered enormously and risked everything for many years, and impose his vision, which seems to be emancipating everyone from whatever they don’t want to do, or something along those lines (it’s never really made clear what Darrow wants, except that he’s super pissed his wife is dead, and hierarchy is always bad, so he wants less of it). No, why would you think he would do that? Instead, a woman, one of Darrow’s closest allies, but certainly not his follower (no woman is ever subservient to any man in these books, except for a bunch of rape in the first book, which is the most realistic thing in the book, but is never mentioned again), is named the new Sovereign, to which Darrow naturally has no objection, even though he has no intention of retiring. She then pulls out of a hat a six-year-old child she had by Darrow, knowledge of whom she concealed from him, because his maternal instincts might have lessened his drive (she, however, has spent the past six years being a girlboss war captain up and down the Solar System, killing millions). It’s a cringe ending to a cringe trilogy.

What, a tiny little bit, redeems Red Rising is the occasional compelling turn of phrase. I’ve noted the opening lines of the first two books; in keeping with the general downhill trend, the third book has no such clever opening line, although the flyleaf map does bear the pithy legend, “The Solar System. At the time of the Second Moon Lords’ Rebellion.” And sometimes, Brown shows a little understanding of how actual men think and act. In the culminating battle of the book, Darrow and his allies defeat a mighty armada under the command of Roque au Fabii, the “Poet of Deimos,” sometime boon companion of Darrow. Roque is a sensitive man turned successful space warrior, and he is about to die by his own hand like the Roman general Publius Quinctilius Varus (not that Brown makes the comparison), because he has been dishonored by his loss of the greatest fleet ever assembled. Darrow, still driven by his wife’s death, confronts Roque on the bridge of Roque’s flagship. “Ships detonate in his irises, washing [Roque’s] pale face with furious light. ‘All this . . . ,’ [Roque] whispers, feeling the end coming. ‘Was she so lovely?’ ”

So, yeah, I don’t recommend Brown’s books. The subversive way to read these books, perhaps, and to make them a little more worthwhile, is to view the Golds, who are meant as the villains, with their hierarchy, their binding by tradition and collective pursuit of achievement, and their continual extreme striving for glory, as the heroes, and the caste system as a simple reflection of the reality of human difference. Inverting a book’s frame is a lot of work, though, and really, it’s not worth it.

I remind myself, however, that I’m not the target audience for these books. What does the target audience think? I’m not sure what the demographics of readers of these books are. In general, today, boys don’t read books. At the children’s bookstore where I went the other day, none of the books are directed at boys, none at all. I suppose they are directed at girls, or maybe feminized boys, or maybe at feminizing boys. But I doubt if girls love the endless fight scenes in this trilogy. Maybe young men read this, thinking it’s “based” because there’s a lot of fighting, not realizing that the oozing propaganda is colonizing their minds (something also true of every action movie nowadays). Somebody must like these books; on Amazon, Red Rising has 47,951 reviews (not including mine; the court in my lawsuit against Amazon for deplatforming me has ignored my case for more than six months now). Brown has talked about how he writes for “outsiders,” naming specifically homosexuals and trannies; maybe his readers are all the supposedly sexually-fluid Gen-Z types, who like to imagine that a real Space Rome would allow them to be heroes while still catering to their mental illness. Maybe it’s older lonely women, Karens and wine aunts, who want to imagine themselves as girlboss warriors; at least some of the reviews on Amazon seem to come from such people. Beats me.

Completing the downhill trend all the way to rock bottom, though no doubt he’ll keep digging as long as there is money to be made, Brown has written a second trilogy, taking place ten years after the events of the first book. I had ordered, and received, those books when I was reading Red Rising. However, I learned that the Late-Stage Leftism of the first trilogy has been, uh, fortified in the second trilogy. I returned the books of the second trilogy, marking them as defective, writing that the reason was they “are homosexual propaganda.”

Somewhere there could have been a good trilogy with the ideas in this book. We could have explored the tension between hierarchy and freedom. We could have evaluated whether an honor culture (dueling is depicted as common among Golds, for example) is a good or bad thing. We could have talked about, shades of Fitzpatrick’s War, how to avoid the cycle of regimes and civilizations, and how whether collective sacrifice to avoid prosperity fading into decadence followed by collapse might be a method to that end. But no. That’s not what we got. Ah well. I read fiction very fast, but still, I wasted a good ten hours of my time. Dumb me.

Let’s shift gears a bit, to discuss Space, in the here and now. I wrote a long piece, “On Space,” back in 2019, and the first pillar of Foundationalism is Space. My claim is that conquest of Space is a crucial element of mankind’s future flourishing. I insist that conquering Space is necessary because it provides, in modernity, the only possible great external, temporal focus of achievement, and such a focus is necessary both to bind together and to impel forward a great civilization, our potential successor civilization. From this can be reborn a necessary mental attitude, an attitude which views great deeds achieved through daring and a love of excellence as the core of a civilization, the duty of achieving which is the chief duty of the ruling class. Without this attitude, a rising society quickly stagnates and falls far short of glory, in the same way as all non-Western societies have ultimately failed to achieve much of anything.

I don’t insist on the manned conquest of Space, but I do insist on its conquest. I call this Heroic Realism, and you can read more in my earlier piece. Yet there are many who reject this vision, who see little or no value in Space. Their condensed objection is that we don’t bother conquering Antarctica, a far more hospitable environment than any place outside of Earth, so why would we bother leaving Earth? To these naysayers, Space is a way to avoid focusing on and fixing challenges and problems we have at home (though most of those problems would disappear under a Foundationalist society, to be sure).

The objection is really to manned conquest of Space, so we can treat that first. The obvious rejoinders to the objection don’t really hold water. Yes, doing anything in Antarctica is strictly controlled by a variety of international treaties, but there’s no push by either nations or men seeking glory to loosen those treaties, which suggests the treaties aren’t preventing anything. And while there may be no glory to be found in Antarctica, because there is nothing new to be found and nothing to exploit, there is certainly a great deal of personal challenge in, say, climbing mountains in Antarctica, and such personal challenges are closely related to the collective societal spirit of seeking to achieve great deeds. Yet it is rarely done.

Some say the conquest (whatever that would mean) of Antarctica, and any other place on Earth, is not a goal worth reaching for because all of Earth is claimed, individually or jointly, by some government. Space, they say, will be different, a realm of freedom, a libertarian paradise, where the government will not tell you what to do and every man can sink or swim on his own. But that’s not plausible—even if some government doesn’t micromanage your life in Space, which is unlikely, social controls in harsh, dangerous environments are, of necessity, extremely strict. Unless we discover a forgotten wormhole network that allows people to find habitable planets and easily relocate there, no part of living in Space will be free of control by earth-bound government.

Others argue that we “must” colonize space for “planet redundancy,” ignoring that it would be impossible for us to make the Earth as inhospitable as Mars currently is (and that we are not terraforming anything in the foreseeable future). Yet others claim we need to start with the Moon or Mars in order to go further, which is probably true but does not make colonizing the Moon or Mars any easier. These responses don’t answer the challenge either.

My first order response is that the real problem, why nobody climbs mountains in Antarctica or reaches for Space, is that our society is terrible, and that awfulness is encapsulated in our failure to dream—not of fantasies, but of possible realities—combined with our failure to organize our society to reach those dreams. Still, true as it is that our society is awful, maybe that response is cope. If we were the type of society that dreamed, would we in truth dream of Space, and waking, make those dreams real?

Let’s consider under what circumstances men would choose to go to Space. By “go to Space” here I mean settlement, the permanent expansion of mankind into Space, rather than mere manned excursions. Elon Musk may get to Mars, and he can certainly find many men to sign up to be the first to Mars, even if it’s likely to be a one-way trip. But, as with going to the Moon, you get rapidly diminishing returns—after all, any exploration or exploitation to be done on Mars, or anywhere else, can be done a lot better, cheaper, and safer by machines, so after getting there, what is Musk going to do next? Ongoing settlement in any place won’t happen unless people have a good reason to leave wherever they are.

So why would men and women leave Earth to go to space? Historically, those who abandon the land of their fathers to risk it all on the frontier do it for one of two reasons. Either they are so unhappy with their present situation that they decide the risks are worth the rewards, or they are satisfied enough, but they believe that highly desirable opportunities unavailable to them now will become available when they go to the frontier. American versions of the former include the Pilgrims and other settlers looking for religious freedom, and famished Irish immigrants. Most other arrivals to America fall into the latter group, as did the Spanish conquistadors. As David Gress wrote of the latter, in one of my favorite quotes of all time, “Living under [God’s] judgment, men conceived life as an adventure, and their vivid imaginations conceived great tasks—sometimes bloody, cruel, and murderous—and impelled them to surmount great challenges. Hernán Cortes conquered Mexico for God, gold, and glory, and only a mundane imagination would distinguish these impulses, for they were one and the same.”

Do either of these two reasons for settling a new place apply to settlement of Space (leaving aside technical challenges, which we will talk about in a moment)? Not the first, certainly. There are plenty of people in America unhappy with their situation, but even if they were willing to take risks, which given the spiritual ennui affecting us is very unlikely, how would relocating to Space make the risks worth the rewards? The reality is that everyone in the West is, by historical standards, rich and comfortable, and that, combined with enervation, makes it very unlikely they would ever choose to up stakes and leave Earth. (This is less true of those in the Third World, perhaps, but they’re not going to Space, now or ever, at least on their own initiative and under their own power.) Even in a remade, Foundationalist, society people will not feel the need to leave Earth because they are unhappy here—quite the contrary, in fact, if Foundationalism is everything it’s cracked up to be.

That leaves the second possibility. There are always men, a small percentage to be sure, who will risk everything for God, gold, and glory. God isn’t really on offer in Space. It is true that religious freedom and the desire to convert others is a common driver of moving to the frontier, but there’s nobody to convert in Space, and you’re not going to get more religious freedom in Space. You can imagine, I suppose, a religious organization deciding as a corporate entity on some type of space colonization; in The Expanse the Mormons do so. But they are not fleeing persecution. You could also imagine a new religion adopting the conquest of Space as a key doctrinal element, but there is no reason to think such belief will arrive.

As to gold, there are many worthwhile resources in space, theoretically exploitable by asteroid mining and the like. But unlike past gold rushes on Earth, an individual could not grab that for himself. He would be dependent on a vast infrastructure owned by and run by others, and he could not hide any wealth he found. He’d be an employee, and it’s very hard to get rich as an employee, which reduces any incentive to take the risk. Those getting rich would instead be cretins like Larry Fink, the chief of Blackrock (whose wealth I am going to confiscate some day). That leaves glory, which is certainly achievable in Space, up to a point. But again, as with gold, individual action is going to be tightly constrained in the hostile environment of Space, and it’s tough to achieve real glory in those conditions, except in the narrow sense that Neil Armstrong achieved glory by being the first man on the Moon.

So maybe the manned conquest of Space doesn’t make sense. Or maybe we should pull back the camera a bit and view it from the perspective of a society, rather than individuals. A society as a whole can seek for God, gold, and glory, and that is somewhat different than individuals so doing. This is related to Oswald Spengler’s view of the Faustian West, for very few societies have ever sought for glory. But the West has long since lost this drive; it would have to be a new, or reborn, society, where woven into the society’s fabric is the demand for achievement. At that point the conquest of Space would follow naturally, not from the exhortations of random internet writers such as myself.

Such a renewal seems, upon reflection, to be a precondition for the conquest of Space. It would, or could, become a self-reinforcing process—a strong society strives, as a whole rather than through the decisions of individuals seeking personal gain, to conquer Space, and its collective effort makes it a stronger society. At least in theory, that’s possible, though if I am being honest, I am perhaps more skeptical of the likelihood of this than I was a few years ago. Still, even if manned conquest never arrives, I think unmanned conquest of Space is a practical alternative, and avoids many of the objections to manned conquest. We can still have Heroic Realism with robot space explorers and miners. Maybe it won’t be quite as heroic, but it is still an external focus of achievement with real benefits for a civilization.

Regardless, if we today decided that conquering Space, by any method, was an overriding goal, and our society was reborn entirely to remove the many organizational blockages to that end, the conquest of Space would be impossible unless we found a new source of cheap, inexhaustible energy. It’s not impossible we could discover such a new energy source, but there is no indication we will anytime soon, if ever. It is also true, however, that were we to find one, as with all technology, it would be a double-edged sword, perhaps used to extend the Brawndo Tyranny, which is now on life support and will hopefully expire soon if no external aid arrives.

Where does that leave us? Well, as much as I enjoy watching Musk strive, it strongly suggests that any effort put into Space within the confines of our present society is a waste of time. We are going to have to go backward before we can go forward. Yet we should still dream, that someday, we, or our children, or our grandchildren, can make those dreams real.

You Should Subscribe. It's Free!

You can subscribe to writings published in The Worthy House. In these days of massive censorship, this is wise, even if you normally consume The Worthy House on some other platform.

If you subscribe will get a notification of all new writings by email. You will get no spam, of course.  And we do not and will not solicit you; we neither need nor accept money.

PDF (Typeset) eBook (ePub) eBook (MOBI/Kindle)


  1. Daniel says

    Great review as always Charles. If I may make a recommendation, space rome ( well in this case Byzantium) has been done much better already. Instead of late stage leftism undergurding the story, it has a subtle reactionary streak with a brilliant subversion of avatar style oikophobia baked into the story. Its Christopher Ruocchios Sun Eater saga. The first one is good but by far the weakest of the bunch it’s called Empire of Silence, id love your thoughts on it

    • Charles Haywood says

      Thank you! Those are on my list; maybe someday in the near future . . . .

  2. Nicolae Marcu says

    I am in total agreement with your take. What I found fascinating was some of the proze and the usage of Latin and Greek.
    Regarding the other issue, of space and energy and related to that of “scientific progress”, did you happen to know about Nate Hagen’s views regarding energy and the claim currency makes on reality? He had a very interesting interlocutor, Daniel Schmachtenberger talking about resources and other issues that will help those truly on the right in the near future. (I’m not saying that they are on the right).
    Christ has risen!

    • Charles Haywood says

      Truly He is risen! No, not familiar. Any link to a summary?

  3. Ryan Murray says

    I sure hope you are right about the teetering of the Brawndo tyranny. It won’t even allow my small town to conquer the space between a small streams banks to replace a failing bridge because it might temporarily disturb some freshwater mussels. Hardly a cause to spur men’s hearts to action but just another sign of the times.

    What are your thoughts on the ethics and effects of genetic manipulation in humans that may or may not be coming down the pike? Watching the dead ends and poor health resultant of the cutting edge of livestock breeding as a Dairyman I think my lineage would be best served by avoiding such interventions.

    • Charles Haywood says

      I am opposed to the genetic manipulation. This is a basic Christian position. Most forms of transhumanism that commodify men and women are inherently bad. Yes to the artificial retina; no to “improvements” through more basic manipulation. But none of this, neither artificial retinas nor substantive genetic manipulation, is going to happen. It is all vaporware. Oh, maybe, in the distant future, but not with the world as it is currently situated. (Nor is “AI,” that is LLMs, going to make any improvements or do anything worthwhile, although it will no doubt destroy BS jobs.)

  4. Coincidentally, at the urging of one of my readers I started reading the Red Rising series a couple of weeks ago, and am now almost finished with Morningstar – note the Luciferian symbolism to the title. Your conclusions regarding, and frustrations with, the series mirror my own. While competently written, highly entertaining, and quite visually imaginative in a pyrotechnic sense that would lend itself well to an animated adaptation, the core of it is incoherent at psychological, sociological, and technological levels. For example, I’d also wondered why the Golds didn’t engineer the Reds, and the other colors, to love their servitude, as for example the Draka did with their own slave castes in S. M. Stirling’s novels. This would have made for a far more stable society than the one they achieved with the blunt instruments of deception and brutality. Of course, for dramatic reasons this couldn’t be done – you can’t have a slave revolt when the slaves are bred to be slaves, anymore than a farmer has to worry about a cattle revolt.

    The symbolism of the book is quite revealing as to the author’s sympathies. Red as the primary color, and a sickle as the protagonist’s weapon and symbol. This could hardly be more obvious.

    If one were inclined to be charitable, one might see a subversive theme in that the Society presided over by the Golds is inspiring, beautiful, noble, heroic, and glorious … as it’s torn down the reader can’t help but be horrified, and wonder if it would not be better to save it … particularly in contrast to our own degraded world. Yet I do not think this was the author’s intent. Rather he was trying to depict a ‘fascist’ order and, in essence, satirize it, arguing that it may look nice on the surface, but the horrors and oppression it rests upon condemn it. Insofar as he fails to do this – and I believe he does – this is for the simple reason that all attempts to satirize or denigrate such a social order fail, as for example WH40K or the film adaptation of Starship Troopers. Young men see it, and think “That looks awesome.”

    As I read the novels, and the historical backstory was fleshed out, I repeatedly thought that it would be far more interesting to read about the Iron Golds – the first generation of conquerors who came from the sky to pacify the Earth, tear down the crumbling, corrupt, and decadent democracies, and erect in their place a society aimed not at the flattening of humanity but on its elevation. Without, of course, the girlboss men-with-tits tropes that were a source of continuous eye-rolling for me from the very beginning.

    • Charles Haywood says

      All true, although I suppose I missed the color and sickle symbolism–who actually claims to be Communist nowadays, not to mention that it seems real superficial. I totally agree that wasn’t the reader’s intent. Brown grew up a rich boy; he’s just another one of those rich brats who want to tear beauty and goodness down.

      And yes, the Iron Gold story would be an inverted Fitzpatrick’s War–more technology, rather than less!

      • Your review of Fitzpatrick’s War certainly sparked my interest. It’s on the list; perhaps I’ll read it next as a palette cleanser.

        I thought the red-and-sickle symbolism was also rather ham-fisted and superficial. Absent the slave revolt plotline, egalitarian anti-hierarchical sentiment, and the general disdain shown for everything high and beautiful, I’d have been tempted to overlook it, and I can certainly see why you did – it’s appropriate to the comments, not the main text.

        Now that I think about it, though, the treatment of religion is also consistent with a communist reading. The Golds are atheists, while the Red’s belief in the Vale is presented as a superstition that consoles their subjugation – very much an opiate of the masses, and an incredibly shallow view of the subject. Although a shallow view of religion is quite common in science fiction and fantasy, writers such as John C. Wright being the exception.

        As to who actually claims to be a communist nowadays, you’d be surprised. It isn’t only Antifa bedecking themselves with red stars. I’ve encountered more than a few college students, otherwise clean cut and well-mannered, from middle class backgrounds, who positively gush about Trotsky and Lenin.

        • Charles Haywood says

          Yeah, I actually wrote, and took out, a section criticizing Brown’s grossly inadequate understanding of religion, on all levels.

          Well, I gush occasionally about Trotsky and Lenin, for their tactical abilities, though, not their ideology!

          Despite many people telling me that many different books would change my life, none has. But Fitzpatrick’s War has come the closest. It haunts me.

  5. M says

    Actually conquering space in any meaningful way will require humans, or completely autonomous robots (beyond the “level 4” autonomous vehicles that we still don’t have and won’t for a while yet).
    Driving a vehicle around on the moon from Earth requires a round-trip lightspeed signal path of about 5 seconds, which effectively means the vehicle is driving itself and the human is acting more like the commander of a tank: “Go there.” and you have to let the driver pick the route.
    The minimum round trip signal for a Mars rover is over 5 minutes and there’s a maximum (ignoring relays because it would be behind the Sun) of more like 45 minutes. At that point you’re able to relay perhaps 5 commands per 8 hour shift and get feedback on them.

    The other planets, including the asteroids, are further away. Under these circumstances, you cannot hope to have control over anything unexpected.

    For similar reasons, any humans there might be nominally under corporate control, but in practice the man on the spot is actually on the spot. He, and any backup he has, has taken weeks or months to get there. This is likely to stay that way for a long time.

    So I suspect that one reason to go would be to be out from under the cloud of incessant unnecessary regulation. Any regulations on a Mars station would be those that were necessary, because unnecessary ones would be ignored, or result in accidents.

  6. Maband says

    Ugh, reminds me of a book I read called Babel, by a spoiled Oxford educated prog. The idea is of a translation magic that allows one to manipulate reality by arbitraging the difference between the meanings of words in different languages; a striking idea. The first half of the book is full of historical and etymological points of interest, combined with a nice description of 1830s Oxford and London. Unfortunantly, the second half is a demented, quasi religious and rabid fall into the most deranged cliches of modern leftistm. The main characters lose their semi-positive ambiguity about the lovely and admirable but arrogant institution they are a part of, and suddenly decide that highly diverse anticolonialism is the only true and good way. In the 1830s. In England. Rants about “racial justice” and “white people not getting it” are constant, and the race of all the characters is constantly brought up, accompanied by either rapturous, worshipful bromides or zealous, heated denunciations. (Guess which one applies to whites). One of the main characters, the only white one, commits a heinous act that is totally against her earlier characterization, and the only justitfication is … drumroll … there are no really good whites!

    I will no longer read any fiction, especially scifi or fantasy, by modern women or leftists. I was soft and charitable enough to think it an interesting different perspective a decade ago. No longer. They’ve ruined my most cherished genres, and have my lasting antipathy for that, among the other things commonly mentioned on this site. Brandon Sanderson, the only partial man and and opely religious person left in the genre, is raking in millions through kickstarter and surging popularity; unfortunantly he too is slowly succumbing to the malodorous tide of seeping slime. I hope that a future society will lead to great mythopoeic stories as well as attempts at space conquest. We need fiction of both myth and aspiration more than most think.

  7. Anon says

    The criticisms mentioned above are fair, yet no regrets reading the series. That said, I admittedly have a soft spot for over-the-top space operas. Suspension of disbelief kept me until Dark Age-which shifted this from an enjoyable series to a thought provoker.

    I wonder if Red Rising is a generational phenomenon. What other fictional literature can help frame the current cultural chaos? The classics: 1984, Brave New World, Atlas Shrugged, That Hideous Strength, Lord of the Flies. All hint at elements….. but none quite capture the spirit of the current age. Maybe J.G. Ballard, but he’s far outside mainstream awareness.

    Millennial’s, from very different world views, really like this series. Something in the Red Rising Universe might resonate deeply-maybe subconsciously. Perhaps it points to their lack of better literature exposure; nonetheless, do the themes/ideas alone make the series popular despite itself?

    I submit this frame: The Millennial worldview has rapidly unraveled in a way that closely tracks Darrow’s realization that striving for the Laural and Red sacrifice was a big fat lie. The sloppy, callous attitude of the mine owners tracks the PMC management style. As the Millennials began to realize “the game” and accept the unfairness in it all, they still hoped at least the leadership class were competent. Nope. Not that either. Our leaders are just as selfish and decadent as Golds. Plus, access to that game is rigged too.

    In a world of denied reality, does any modern literature that hints at these themes become catnip?

    Dark Age (maybe Iron Gold), in fact, started inverting the frame. It became apparent (to this reader at least) that maybe Golds living up ideals-honor, glory, greatness- were necessary for a functioning civilization after all. Free Reds appear more miserable and destitute than they were in the mines. Curious if these subversive realizations expand into the next book.

    • Charles Haywood says

      Interesting. But I will probably never read the later books!

  8. orthanc says

    Great review…Love these books. I wonder if authors intend to write “based” or right wing books ….I wonder if this Pierce Brown is one of “us”….
    Hey Charles please check out the movie “Starship Trooper” (adapted from the book by Robert Heinlein) which is currently on Netflix… The director of Starship Troopers meant to mock the book and it’s themes but inadvertently made a pretty good right wing movie…It’s hilarious because on interviews the director tries to disavow his accidental “based” movie.

    • Charles Haywood says

      Oh, I am so old I saw that movie when it was in theaters, and I’ve seen it since! But I’m pretty sure Brown is not right-wing.

  9. Kudzu Bob says

    Scientists such as Greg Cochran and Stephen Hsu think that some form of gene-editing–perhaps merely by means of reducing the genetic load through deleting bad mutations, a less radical step than than the introduction of new traits–will make possible the advent of human beings who are better-looking, more athletic, and substantially smarter than today’s standard model. Perhaps such re-engineering will show what Freeman Dyson meant when he said that the conquest of space is fundamentally a problem not of physics or engineering, but of biology.

  10. Nooneismind says

    Fascinating analysis. Have to say your specific project of space exploration is completely uninteresting even dorky for me. We all know outer space is dead and life is for the living. But that’s fine. There are many great projects for many different people to pursue when the goals and reasons are good.(The better, unlimited energy source you seek, O&G and mining ceos and owners would privately say, is geothermal as the earth and moon have a heat core waiting to power your steam turbines, but the grift and crony corruption/green fraud has $ go to intermittent solar/wind eyesores instead of making advancements and applications in deep sea and fracking techniques for geothermal) Your Conquistador quote – You should read Gomora’s history of The Conqueror: the smallest company – the greatest conquest ever. The book is patterned after the Anabasis and greatly influenced the smartest and perhaps most influential man born in the last 2000 years (Montaigne). Studying the explorers and conquistadors was once a main part of the American spirit and my 7th grade class spent almost the whole year learning about such fascinating men and projects.

    Instead of looking up into outer space, how about a conquest right before our faces? For us, our children and grandchildren- the conquest and colonizing of North America? A dream of the waking day as you would say: Recolonize the lands where our fathers died, lands of the pilgrims’ pride. It also ties into your next post about natalism – hit the chance that passes by and don’t dilute increased births of foundational people. Study is for things that stay constant (soul and body for as far as we can see), but history and change is for action and to make it. The steps are obvious, practical and legal – as one should not break the law, otherwise one becomes lawless.

    Follow the paradigm of the peaceful takeover of California, the peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union and a pre-arranged bankruptcy plan with holding companies, operating companies and blocking classes. Michael Anton gives a very good dialogue on the points to think about, as dialogues mimic the way we think and like aphorisms one can stay close to reality (we only see parts of parts of the whole (if it’s a whole)) and why modern “education” and “theory” is most often just presentation, bs, words that after a few sentences becomes personal fantasy unmoored from reality. But Anton’s dialogue is about present action and making history, so to complete the dialogue and ANSWER it, one needs to put in the action. Just add a small child and pregnant wife standing next to Tom. For “in the end, history is the migration of peoples”. (Nietzsche)

    Pre-plan: 3 to 5 years
    The state with the third most « votes » for Republicans in 2020 was California. After the experiences of the last 4 years, anyone who stays there or similar states is a fool. Nostalgia kills. So some of these and those from other blue states would move to red states (when did this inversion occur (like every other inversion in USA) as Republicans were always blue and Dems red? So let’s call these « real people » to pick up on the Foundationalism theme.) Must make many red states to be like California where there is only one party (not as a result of the votes and choice of California citizens but by crime and having the fruits of their crime elect them) and flood any remaining democrat congressional districts in those states to become real (In your state, for example, the reals from Chicago flood Indianapolis while the main employer in Bloomington has changed its ways). Then real people will always have a blocking position in the House. Dilute and remake public university faculty and shed administrators (public unis are creatures of the state) so they are for real people and affordable. Blacks, albeit maybe only in the south, are often more “foundational/real” than they are red/blue and they’ve been here as long as anybody. Some will go for it. Reduce dependence on federal subsidies (climate grift) and other fed links as much as possible so the economy and investment decisions are real. Establish more expansive rights in the state constitutions than in the Bill of Rights to protect from the federal attack on the citizens. A massive state tax on any foundation operating or providing funds in the state (the alter-ego tax scam of the super rich to flex their muscles). The only discrimination allowed now as we see in the judge, jury, DA, education, jobs, career, media, etc is for political views, because haters hate the hated haters. During this pre-plan period, prefer in all choices by political views. It’s not illegal to not hire a blue. Every family should have 4+ children. These real states are for the vital, the living, with sap flowing through them. Not for fat, vegy, soft, perverted, lonely, drug users in an unreal fantasy.

    Once sufficiently independent, with the block in the House, then approve nothing at the federal level the reals don’t like (no appropriations nor continuing resolution). Make them respect your legal and electoral position. If Congress can then agree then great, but if they can not agree among themselves, then the states become Opcos and raise taxes to fund themselves while the federal government is a bankrupt, badco, holding company. Like in a well planned modern bankruptcy, separate the good from the bad and wack the pot of the bad, with the creditors getting a dividend and Opcos free of the Holdco burdens. Almost everyone in holdco/badco hates real people and our Opcos, their lives based on words (words don’t exist!), names and fantasies, hate reality and the reals. They and their subsidized fantasies and grifting get wacked and unfunded.

    As no Opco wants to be left holding the bag of the Holdco, every state rushes to declare independence like with Yeltsin and the peaceful dissolution by the many different states of the Soviet Union.

    There are thousands of decisions to be made during the game once the ball is rolled out and time to play, but here are some highlights: Those who have merged their business/lives with the federal government will have problems. Once people start thinking along these lines, it’s self-fulfilling to get ahead of the game. 2024 will make it clear that this is the only rational alternative. Make the currency in the real states a privately run way to ease transacting commerce and not a politically owned means to fund unreal excesses and grift – there is an accelerating upheaval in “currency” in any event, so the timing now is good. Active and vital, cranking on abundant, lowest cost quartile energy (see the buzz in Dubai or AbuDhabi) while the to be re-colonized lands suffocate under the climate fraud. There will be much more fun, joking, happiness and civic pride and help of each other in the real states than today, because currently we are in one of the most ignorant and unreal times in history. With the split, one will no longer be a group apart watching the old circus of freaks and idiots: the fat lady, the bearded lady, the muscle man, the swami, the tattoo man etc.

    Reconquista and Colonize
    The soul of a blue person is such that among other things, they don’t want kids – except maybe one precious, lonely, spooked, child or non-identical twins at the last minute. See for good paradigms of these traits: Strauss, Natural Right & History p.226-228, John Lennon “Imagine”, meditation as highest state, pop-oriental religions, drug use as the optimally corrective state, etc. In short, there is a strong trait in them where the deepest, most meaningful, most « enlightened » life for them is sensing themselves without a call, fate, demand, pull to grow, to know, etc. There are many consequences from promoting this trait. The first country (France) to widespreadly adopt this med soul was the first to have its population crash from being 1 in 4 europeans in the early 1800s and 1st power and influence in the world to a population crash and softness and defeat. All countries adopting this soul type have followed the same course. They can be violent and restless and move until they get the freedom to be in their “med” state. But once there, they are drained of life and do not bud and make more life.

    Within one generation of the USA split, the blue states will have a massive population decrease – opposite of the massive population increase in the vibrant states. Don’t dilute. The first day of the split, the new vibrant states expel all illegals to the blue states, if they have not already left. These have shown in North America, however, to adopt the blue soul and do not make kids either. With the reals gone and no need for immigrant dilution/replacement to secure left political control, will they continue mass immigration against themselves? In any event blue states will have a severe oligarch-poor divide even greater than today’s un-American, third world type split and will be a mess and likewise soon thereafter fall into bankruptcy.

    Within 10 years of the split (2040), the burgeoning youth of the real states will colonize in groups entire neighborhoods or settlements in the blue states in sparsely populated areas or towns abandoned by population decline (like how the Arabs and Africans do in Europe and following Erdogan’s forecast of conquest. Don’t dilute, but keep the colony structure.) Like the explorers, settlers and conquistadors: for God, glory and gold: Recolonize the lands where our fathers died, lands of the pilgrims’ pride.

    • Charles Haywood says

      It’s a reasonable, if ambitious, plan, which is more than can be said for most discourse nowadays.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *