Title: Red Rising
Author: Pierce Brown
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Publication Date: 28th January 2014
Rating: 4/5 stars
Darrow is a Helldiver, one of a hundred generations of people who live beneath the surface of Mars, spending their lives toiling to mine the precious elements that will allow the planet to be terraformed. Just knowing that, one day, people will be able to walk the surface of the planet is enough to justify their sacrifice. The Earth is dying, and Darrow and his people are the only hope humanity has left.
Until the day Darrow learns that it is 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 at Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.
Until the day 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.
Ender’s Game meets The Hunger Games in this, the first in an extraordinary trilogy from an incredible new voice.
First off, I really liked the concept of this book – I love novel class systems and this one, based on one’s colour, which determines not only status but also occupation and access to resources, was no exception – I absolutely adored the premise behind the book.
However, I grew bored very quickly. Initially I was incredibly interested – Darrow was an engaging character, living his life hard and fast, spurred into action by the execution of his young wife, and his own narrow escape from the same fate. Sponsored by a group of rebels, he is turned into a Gold by a Carver – a creepy sort of plastic surgeon. All of that was really cool, as was Darrow’s training to ensure he was selected to attend the Golds’ school, to allow him to infiltrate the upper echelons of this social class.
And then we had to sit through the rest of the book. The first year of training involved all the selected students – after each killed another student – living in a battleground resembling the Ancient Greek countryside. The houses for which the students fought are each associated with one of the Greek gods. Darrow is in the house of Mars, obviously, but there is much infighting. Eventually he gets kicked out and has to fend for himself, drawing in other deserters with a charisma he didn’t know he possessed. However, I found this second half of the book repetitive. There was too much of the same thing going on – I wish it had taken up a smaller segment of the book, so that I could have learnt more about the fascinating world Brown has created.
The story is also very sexist – well, the society Brown has created is. The girls (even though they are Gold and still far more talented than most other Golds, evidenced by their places in the prestigious school) are underestimated in the war games and there are a few instances of rape, used as a form of terror in this teenage war. It gets a bit horrific.
While I’m not rushing out to grab the next book, I am definitely going to get to it eventually as I am intrigued to see more world-building through the rest of the series. If, like me, you love the fascinating worlds authors create, this is definitely the book for you. If you like bloodthirsty battle scenes, you will probably enjoy the second half of this book more than I did. It was a book with great promise, which was almost achieved and I am interested to see how the others pan out, if they can achieve that promise.