A reviewer who isn’t a fan of young adult fiction is won over by this engaging novel.
If history shows us anything, it is that humanity will not remain repressed and enslaved for very long. The inevitable rebellion usually ends badly for everyone involved and all kinds of valuable lessons are learned. Such are the events that take place in Red Rising
, unfolding quickly, with the author giving us no time to recover between blows.
This first book in the Red Rising
trilogy is extremely well written and gave me an interesting set of themes to explore. The author has managed to weave together threads of love, loss, intrigue, excitement and action in amounts that are just right without the scenes becoming too contrived. The relationships formed between characters in the book are skilfully depicted and easily convinced me about either the depth or superficiality of feelings between characters.
begins with an introduction to the life of the protagonist, Darrow, a Red living on Mars.In a society split into classes by genetics and named after colours, the Reds are on the bottom rung. Born and bred to mine the rare elements that are needed to terraform Mars and make it habitable, the Reds live in complete subjugation to the upper colours.
They live and die quickly in the mines, and are kept in check by sanctions on food and other necessities if they cause problems. The carrot comes in the form of hope, that one day, once they have mined enough of the elements required, they will be recognised and that their sacrifices over the years will make them heroes to the first generation on a habitable Mars.
What the Reds don’t know, however, is that Mars was terraformed generations ago, together with a sizeable chunk of the solar system. The Golds at the top of the food chain keep up the pretence because, really, who doesn’t like slave labour? They, together with the hulking Obsidians (bred for war) and the Grays (the society’s bureaucrats and coppers), keep the Reds under their collective thumb.
Darrow, the narrative voice of the book, is recruited by a terrorist group, the Sons of Ares, and pulled into a lonely and terrifying mission that will ultimately bring down the ruling power of the Golds and their elite master class, the Peerless Scarred.
In turns ruthless, then frightened, the young Darrow must survive the training he is dropped into as well as the merciless political arena of the Gold hierarchy. Along the way we are introduced to the other colours as well, Greens and Browns and Pinks, who all serve, and are bred for, some specific function within society.
The book flows along well, with surprising twists in the plot every now and again. There are a lot of deaths, almost on the level of George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire
series. Many likeable characters are killed off, but every loss has a deeper meaning and contributes to future events in some way. Because of the author’s masterful skill at building character relationships, every death of a primary character tugged at my emotions, ranging from anger to sorrow.
One of the really interesting things about this book is the way Brown has managed to build not only the world of Mars, and to a lesser degree the rest of the solar system, but he has also built a complete society of humans from the ground up. The society is divided into factions based around early Greek and Roman mythology, with familiar names such as Ares, Persephone, Apollo, Jupiter and Minerva cropping up frequently.
The result is a very deep and rich story, so much so that the book feels much longer than its 382 pages. This does not take away from the flow of the story in any way, but rather enhances it, with the story never becoming too fast or too slow, always paced just right for the events that are happening. The concentrated richness of the story also allowed me to feel as though I was completely immersed in the narrative and gave me a very visual and visceral experience throughout.
I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys well-paced, immersive science fiction/fantasy. Be prepared to spend some time reading this book, it is best read in long pieces lest you lose yourself in the detailed tapestry of Pierce Brown’s writing. I am not generally a fan of young adult fiction but I absolutely loved this book, and am eagerly awaiting the next instalment.