Book Review: Red Rising

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Author: Pierce Brown
ISBN: 978-1-444-75898-6
RRP: $29.99

Red Rising is the first novel of the Red Rising Trilogy, a science fiction from newcomer Pierce Brown that has been compared to The Hunger Games and Ender’s Game. I haven’t read either of these works so can’t attest to the accuracy of any comparison.

In a futuristic world where the entire solar system has been colonized humans have evolved into a rainbow of races with a very distinct hierarchy. Golds are on top and Reds are at the bottom, so far down the bottom that the low Reds don’t even see the surface of the planet. Each of the colours also has a purpose and a place in Society, with no hope of ever bettering themselves. The Golds are the rulers, The Purples are the artistic creators, The Pinks are for pleasure; The Greens develop technology, The Yellows study medicine and science and the list goes on but you get the picture. Each colour lives within their chosen field and they are able to excel in that field because it is the only one that they learn.

The Reds are pioneers of Mars and a hundred generations have been toiling beneath the surface mining the precious helium-3 which will be used to help terraform Mars so that it can be colonized, that’s the story they are being fed anyway. Earth is dying and the Reds are the only hope that humanity has left, they need to get Mars terraformed so that the rest of humanity can escape the dying planet and live on Mars, their sacrifices will mean the survival of the human race.

Helldiver Darrow is extremely good at his job, one of the best, but those in Power have set systems in place to keep this subterranean society in a constant state of stasis. They can’t change their positions because the rewards scheme is exactly that; A scheme to direct the hate in the direction chosen by the rulers and to keep everyone performing the very best that they can to try and be the ones to earn the reward.

red rising

The lifespan of a Red is quite short so it is no surprise that seventeen year old Darrow is married. His wife Eo dreams of a better life, she recognizes that there is something not quite right about the way things are run and finds a way to let Darrow know. She passes to him her dream of a better life for their people. Soon after, Darrow discovers that Mars has been inhabited for generations.

The only way to bring down a Society so entrenched in its class system is from the inside so with the help of a mysterious group of rebels Darrow is transformed into a Gold and infiltrates their elite school with bringing down the system from the inside his only goal.

Darrow’s disguise goes more than skin-deep and it takes him a long time to come to terms with the knowledge that no-one he knows and loves would recognize him, and they never will again. I don’t think his transformation is reversible. It takes him a long time to recognize himself and learn to act like a Gold. He is fortunate to retain so much of himself because he brings a totally new mindset to the situation which helps him immensely in the long run, after he learns to control his rage and lust for vengeance.

The whole idea of life in Red Rising is difficult to comprehend, these children may be on the cusp of adulthood but the rites of passage they must navigate to reach adulthood are horrendous.

Darrow is a character who I quite like; he is determined, driven and complicated. He has been taken from everything he knows and loves in circumstances that have him screaming for revenge but have given him a purpose. He is driven to succeed, to see the dream of his wife realized. In doing this he has become someone he doesn’t always like, done things he never would have thought possible and with each day as a Gold he is further from his heritage as a Red, he is living amongst his sworn enemies and having to work with them, trust them and gain their trust. The circumstances through which they trek mean they see a side of each other that normally wouldn’t be shared, it makes it very difficult to retain the outlook of sworn enemy.

There are many unforeseen twists in this imaginative and engaging narrative. It is set far into the future but with quite a heavy reliance on mythology and our distant past. The 12 houses at the elite school are named for Greek Gods.

I will be very interested to see where Brown takes the next two novels in this series. I am interested to see how the changes Darrow wrought in the way the game was supposed to be played will translate into the wider world.

Great debut Brown, I look forward to Red Rising 2.

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