Red Rising, Pierce Brown's futuristic sci-fi thriller, is about an outer space caste system based on one's color of skin. It's racism on steroids. There are Reds or peons who drill underneath Mars, Pinks or whores who are bred for sexual favors, Obsidian's who provide security, Bronzes or ne'er do-wells who will never achieve ultimate power, and Golds who are the quintessential inner circle of people running the Cosmos. These people are sub-human, bred from earthlings for a purpose of a brave new world.
The story is solely told through the eyes of Darrow, a Red who drills underneath Mars. Darrow is a hand-diver, a drilling position that requires a high level of skill. There is no reward for his expertise. He is stuck being a Red forever. His father was murdered because of a weak attempt at revolution. His wife Eo was also murdered for disobedience.
Darrow is also sentenced to die after cutting his wife's body down from the town square after her hanging. His uncle and the Sons of Ares, an underground group of rebels, engineer an escape. They "carve" or use sophisticated plastic surgery to change Darrow into a Gold for the purpose of infiltrating the Golds and eventually revolting from the government.
Being a Gold is more than looking the part. Darrow has to attend training. Day one of training involves a dual with another Gold. The winner is the one who lives. Once half of the new Golds are eliminated, the remaining Golds are then assigned to be in certain houses or groups. They play war games over a long period of time (maybe a year) with the purpose of taking down all of the houses and winning the game. There are some rules they are obliged to follow. After the game, the winners are guaranteed the ultimate prize of a high standing position in the government.
Darrow's group eventually turns on each other. One of the members of the group almost kills Darrow. He is rescued by a girl named Mustang. They find other outcasts of this deathly game hiding in the woods and form their own rag-tag army. They learn that the game is rigged. Proctors, the referees of this game, are paid to swing things towards the Jackal's favor because his father is the Arch Governor. Darrow had the chance to kill the Jackal, but blows it. Not to spoil the book, but Darrow ends up going "Rambo" on everyone. There is a sequel.
My review: This book reminded me of Hunger Games because of the training. Both authors had the characters in positions of killing or being killed. The Golds and Hunger Game contestants were somewhere around seventeen to twenty years old. The proctors for each house reminded me of the mentors for each district. In Red Rising the people were divided into groups based on their color. In Hunger Games people were divided up by districts. Both books had the theme of oppression.
Red Rising also reminded me of Harry Potter. The proctors wore invisibility cloaks. The Golds were divided into houses. J.K. Rowling used plenty of Greek and Roman myth references. Pierce Brown went one step farther by using the gods as names of several characters.
Pierce Brown's style was easy to read and easy to emphasize with the weak and downtrodden characters. He wrote action scenes with ease and moved the plot along without weighing down the reader with unnecessary details. Overall, I really liked the book and recommend it to young adults and all sci-fi fans. I look forward to reading the sequel and hope this becomes a movie.
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