Red Rising – Red Rising #1 – Pierce Brown
Release date: January 16th, 2014
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Age Group: (Young) Adult
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
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.
*This review may contain some spoilers for the first half of the book*
Well, I joined the hype. When I requested this book from Netgalley, positives reviews were piling up on Goodreads and it seemed everyone was pretty wild about the book. I have to be honest though: I don’t like hyped books. Most of the times they don’t meet my expectations and though they might be pretty good, disappointment will make it seem like I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have otherwise.
Luckily, Red Rising isn’t one of those books. In fact, it is probably one of the best books I’ve read last year. It has some similarities with books like The Hunger Games, Battle Royale, The Maze Runner or Ender’s Game. In all of these, teenagers or young adults are put in a certain environment where fighting to survive seems to be the main storyline. Red Rising does feel different than all these books, though I can’t pinpoint what makes it stand out exactly.
Red Rising is a dystopian book set on Mars. The sixteen-year old Darrow is a Red. He has slaved away in the mines on Mars all his life. They are mining the precious Helium-3 that will make Mars inhabitable, because the Earth is dying. Though they are treated as slaves, the Reds are told they are the heroes of this age. They are making it possible for the population of Earth to live on Mars, to flee the dying Earth. But when his wife Eo is executed because of a forbidden song she sang, Darrow’s world collapses. Eo believed in a better world, believed that Darrow could help change the Red’s situation and she died for it. Consumed by sorrow, Darrow takes down his wife’s body from the gallows, which is forbidden and he is thereby also sentenced to death.
At this point I didn’t really know where this book was going. I was quite shocked by Eo’s death sentence, because I’d begun to see her as an important character for the story. What I didn’t consider is that she can be very important without actually being there. Her words, her actions and her dreams are what incite Darrow. Maybe she isn’t a tangible part of the story for long, but her influence stays with Darrow and the reader throughout the entire book.
Taking a main character that grew up in a cruel, biased and poor part of society isn’t all that new, but you need to look further than that. I thought it very clever to make these people believe they are special, though they aren’t treated that way. Even though they have to live in a minimalistic way, they have never known anything else, so why expect something more?
What Darrow doesn’t know is that his Uncle has conspired with the Sons of Ares. Darrow wakes up after his execution, very much alive, and gets taken to the surface of Mars by Dancer. Dancer is a dedicated Red who wants to fight the system together with the Sons of Ares. What Darrow sees up top crushes him. Mars is very much inhabited. Cities sprawl before his eyes. They have been lied to their entire lives. Agreeing to help the Sons of Ares overthrow the Golds, the race that rules the society, Darrow himself gets transformed into a Gold: strong, handsome, tall, with golden hair and golden eyes. He is every bit the image of a God. The next step in their plan is to get Darrow into the prestigious Institute to get an education as a Gold. Finishing his education successfully will make it possible to infiltrate the higher ranks of the Golds.
Now this was my favourite part of the book: The Institute. Divided in to houses that carry the name of the Roman Gods and supervised by Proctors ‚impersonating’ those Gods, a real battle to survive begins. Thrilling action, clever tactics and major twists follow one another at a fast pace. With an immense and diverse set of characters, Brown weaves an intricate web of emotions and interactions that can change fast and unexpected leaving you guessing as to which of them are trustworthy and which are not. With plenty of fight scenes and some awesome battle tactics, fans of blood and gore and medieval-esque battles will certainly find what they’re looking for in this book. The Roman Gods and Houses were an extra touch that made me even love this book more.
One of the most interesting things about this book is Darrow’s personal feelings. Though he is a Red, he must fight alongside Golds in the Institute, some of them becoming his friends. Will that affect the plans of the Sons and Darrow’s feelings towards the Golds at all? There are always two sides to a coin and this book uses this premise fantastically.
Red Rising is magnificently written and will keep you turning the pages ‚till well into the night. With the movie rights being already sold to Universal we can now eagerly start waiting for the movie adaptation and hope that it is just as good as the book. The second book in the series, ‚Golden Son’, was released earlier this year and a review will follow soon!