Book One of the Red Rising Trilogy
by Pierce Brown
Young Adult | Science Fiction | 382 Pages | Published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2014
Over the past few years I’ve managed to unintentionally avoid most of the popular young adult dystopian releases – something about hyped novels clearly deflects my attention. That was until Red Rising turned up as the September book of the month for Dragons and Jetpacks. Having, despite the hype, heard very little about it, I cracked Red Rising open with very few expectations and… wow! This novel seriously blew me away. In a debut novel full of repression and vengeance, Pierce Brown manages to surpass all expectations (if I had any at all!). Red Rising is beautifully written, imaginatively crafted and heart thumpingly brilliant.
The Earth is dying. Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it. The Reds are humanity’s last hope.
Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it’s all a lie. That Mars has been habitable – and inhabited – for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down on Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.
Until the day that Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside. But the command school is a battlefield – and Darrow isn’t the only student with an agenda.
Red Rising is a tale of division and repression. The Golds are the conquerors, the glorious leaders who have elected themselves the superior race of humanity. Those who lie elsewhere on the colour spectrum find themselves confined to their caste, unable to climb socially or politically and treated as subhuman by those above. The Reds have it worst of all. Toiling deep underground, they labour under the pretext that they’re making Mars habitable for humanity, a lie perpetuated by the Golds to ensure their continued servitude.
But Darrow and the Sons of Ares plan to bring down the system from within and will do almost anything to free their people. Brown has created a dark and unforgiving field on which to play his characters. This is a harsh land full of harsh people, where only the strongest survive and the most determined rise to power. Those in the way are disposed of dispassionately, both Reds and Golds alike.
This is a novel written with skill and excitement to create a fast paced and thrilling plot; Darrow’s rage and pain filtering throughout the narrative. And though the pages seemingly fly by, this isn’t a novel to rush; the detail Brown puts into his worldbuilding is well worth the time and attention. The characters may carry the novel and drive the plot but this dangerous and alien planet is described with vibrancy and unobtrusive detail. Pierce Brown can almost do no wrong. Almost. Just one (repeated) phrase – ‘picking his butt’. No.
Darrow is a brilliant protagonist, full of fire and passion, anger and vengeance, sorrow and guilt. It’s incredibly easy to get swept along with his narrative, to empathise with his plight and feel his burning anger towards the Golds. The complete somersault of Darrow’s universe, the necessity for him to change and become someone, or something, else are all etched out in beautiful prose as his character grows and develops. All Brown’s characters feel real and, through friendships and allegiances, brutal tests and grim reality, Darrow’s preconceptions are repeatedly tested to create a complex and exciting novel which bristles with tension and leaves you wondering just where it all might lead.
This is one novel which certainly lives up to its hype; if you’re a fan of dystopian science fiction then Red Rising is sure to impress, and though the opening chapters are deceptively reminiscent of other well loved (and obscenely popular) novels, persevere! – This book stands in a league of its own. Goodbye Red Rising, hello Golden Son!