Summary: 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.
Source: I received a digital copy from NetGalley
Red Rising was fantastic! It was imaginative, unique, violent, and well written. It had elements of science fiction, military strategy, survival, and dealt with classism in a way I’ve never seen. It explored the damage trauma can cause a person and wasn’t violent without consequences.
The main character was a Red helldiver under the planet of Mars. He and his entire tribe was told that they were terraforming Mars and making it a suitable place for people. The beginning of the book explored his life there, the way he thought compared to his peers, and the unfairness of their living situation. After losing everything he cared about, he was taken from his place as a Red and the rebels groomed him for an elaborate plan involving the ruling class of Golds.
I was unsure about the book at first because I couldn’t see how Darrow’s situation would allow much room for any kind of revolution, but fortunately, Darrow didn’t spend much time as a Red and the novel didn’t take the direction I expected. His adventures were cut short by tragedy and the book took off once the group of rebels took him up to the surface and basically turned him into a Gold. He had a lot to learn about the world, which was helpful to me since the book just kind of threw me into Darrow’s world and then tilted the world he thought he knew upside down. The bulk of the story took place in the Gold command school where Darrow attended. The students were the best of the best of the Golds and were being tested to find out how high in the social structure they could be.
I hate to give too much of the story away, but it’s hard because the story explored so many things. Each direction or topic that was thrown in was actually explored. The beginning was reminiscent of Ray Bradbury to me because of his obsession with Mars and the way he explored what life on the planet might be like. I enjoyed that part. The part where the rebels turn Darrow into a Gold was definitely the most sci fi aspect of the book and showed me just what kind of technology was available and gave me insight into how the world was divided by class and “color” of the people.
And the bulk of the story was incredible. The first challenge was brutal, but nothing compared to the brutality of the second and longest challenge. Their situation was similar to The Hunger Games, but when I say that, hear me out. It’s not just a bunch of people killing each other to win that barely skims the surface of what that might actually be like. It was much much more complicated than that. It was what THG could have been if it had actually gone deeper into the psychology of being stuck in the games and forced to kill people, make alliances, keep those shaky alliances, and win. It was violent, gory, psychologically damaging to the players, and was an elaborate game of survival and chess. If this book is like THG, it would only be if THG was written for adults who aren’t buying the situation just because the author says it’s like that.
Red Rising is what a truly epic scifi dystopian novel should strive to be. I’m full of questions and there were many points where I thought the class system was actually kind of smart, despite the unfairness to people who aren’t Golds. I love the way it explored each aspect. The only flaw of the novel is Darrow’s perfectness, but the author wasn’t afraid to make him truly suffer, so it wasn’t as if he was untouchable.
I highly recommend Red Rising and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series. I have had this on my Kindle for months and I’m glad I finally picked it up. However, Red Rising isn’t for everyone. It’s brutal and violent and I can’t stress that enough. If you’re used to the pretty dystopian worlds of YA where suffering is minimal, Red Rising might be too much. There’s no easy way out, lovely side romance, or choices that are easy to live with.