Published by Random House Publishing Group on 2014
Genres: Fiction, Action & Adventure, Science Fiction, Dystopian
Buy on Amazon, Buy on B&N
Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children. But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and lush wilds spread across the planet. Darrow--and Reds like him--are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class. Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity's overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society's ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies . . . even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.
What initially drew me to this book is the simply but eye-catching cover. Yes, I’m a sucker for nice cover. Beyond that, I was hoping for a decent science fiction story. I’m not entirely sure I got that, as the “science” was pretty fantastical, but it was an entertaining adventure story, albeit with many of the dystopian tropes that infest YA novels.
Our hero, Darrow, is part of a mining crew on Mars. In good dystopian fashion, his people are purposely kept in the dark as to the true nature of their society, and they’re essentially used as slaves by the powerful and privileged. An awful injustice leaves Darrow seriously pissed off at the world and so starts his quest for revenge by any means possible.
I think of “Red Rising” as a sort of male PoV version of “The Hunger Games”. Instead of television entertainment, characters are subjected to war games to help establish them within the hierarchy of society. It turns out to be a great deal more deadly than the participants initially realize.
Of course, most of the adults are either ineffectual or downright foul. To be fair, though, most of the teens are pretty nasty too. When things start getting desperate during the war exercises, the veneer of civilization quickly sloughs away. The participants engage in some awful practices in order to win and establish themselves as leaders. Despite his desire for vengeance, Darrow proves to be more civil than others supposedly born to polite society. I found him more likable than I’d initially expected. However, there is nothing soft about him, and in the end he doesn’t lose sight of his goal.
I am interested to read the rest of the trilogy. I’m just hoping it doesn’t devolve into another teen angst love triangle. For those of you looking for a hard science piece, though, this is not it.