Date of Publication: January 28 2014
Pages: 382 (but the book is huge so it's more than your typical 382 page book)
The war begins...
Darrow is a Helldiver, one of a thousand men and women who live in the vast caves beneath the surface of Mars. Generations of Helldivers have spent their lives toiling to mine the precious elements that will allow the planet to be terraformed. Just knowing that one day people will be able to walk the surface of the planet is enough to justify their sacrifice. The Earth is dying, and Darrow and his people are the only hope humanity has left.
Until the day Darrow learns that it is all a lie. Mars is habitable - and indeed has been inhabited for generations by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. The Golds regard Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.
With the help of a mysterious group of rebels, Darrow 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...
"And to the reader, thank you. You're going to bloodydamn love these books."
Pierce Brown opened the story with these acknowledgements and he was bloodydamn right. Red Rising is a monster. It is a powerful book about cruel realities. It is cunning and proud and a masterpiece. This book is epic and I expect its impact to be huge. So many times has it been compared to The Hunger Games and although the stories are different, I think it's because the potential is just as strong. It is a story of universal appeal and I can't wait to watch Red Rising become a sensation because this book has the x factor. I know I'm gushing but it's hard not to because Red Rising is everything I could ever want from a book.
Darrow is a Helldiver. He is a Red, one of the lower castes in a futuristic world where humans learned how to space travel and are terraforming other planets. As a Red, Darrow is a pioneer helping make Mars habitable for future Earth evacuees. He lives without much, but he is happy with his simple life with his beautiful wife, whom he adores. Reds are on the bottom of the caste system, and that has never bothered Darrow, who believes in what he's doing. Except that he has been lied to his entire life and he soon learns of the oppression of the Golds.
The world building is phenomenal. Everything has not yet been told to the reader, but the society is described with such clarity that I can clearly imagine it and its values. Pierce Brown put so much thought into his world and that makes Red Rising really shine. There are so many references to history- to Alexander the Great, to the Romans, to Plato, and all of it is done intelligently. For example, Plato's thoughts on democracy as the tyranny of the people are one of the principles to Darrow's world. There is a beautiful balance between the future and the past and it's very clear how their society was built from the past, just like ours.
I adored Darrow right away. He had a spark in him that was apparent from the first scene and watching his character develop is truly remarkable. Darrow was complex and the relationships he built as well as his inner conflict from questioning the morality of his actions was fantastic. Darrow was so ambitious and focused. He wanted something and he did it singlemindedly. He suffered a lot and my heart broke for him, but all that suffering forced him to change.
There are so many phenomenal characters, and I wish I could highlight them all. Instead, I'll focus on the portrayal of females in Red Rising. The society was not patriarchal nor matriarchal. In fact, in several of the high positions, women were in charge. There were so many women, all powerful in different ways, like Eo's unwavering belief in a better world (I adored her) to some other character's sly realism. Red Rising was very much a military book and sometimes women seem to be ignored in these types of books, which is ridiculous because they have been incredible military leaders in the past. There was Zenobia, Jeanne D'Arc, the Trung sisters, Boudicca. Sometimes, dystopian YA authors seem to decide that in their imaginings of the future, women are weak and of lesser value; this is a step backwards I have never understood. So, I was happy to read about strong, capable women in Red Rising.
The plot was unbelievable. This is an epic story that is Game of Thrones esque. There are brutal battles, victories and failures. It is so bloody at times and I enjoyed reading about Darrow finding his way though this Machiavellian world. I was completely enthralled through every part of Red Rising. The writing is strong as it has a sense of attitude and it portrays Darrow perfectly.
Now, my absolute favorite part of Red Rising was its exploration of several subjects, most notably, power. I've always been fascinated with power: its acquisition, and its effects. Red Rising explored all this perfectly. As Darrow changed from a lowly Red to someone with greater opportunities, the story explored the effects of power as it changes and corrupts. The story also explored different types of power. What kind of power can a martyr have? Are matyrs good? What effect can power have to people born to it, yet oblivious to that fact? And how does an empire remain in power? All these questions were explored so well with undertones of psychology, philosophy and history. This literary aspect made Red Rising a page turner to read for entertainment, but also a book that could be comfortably read and analyzed in an English class.
Everything was crafted stupendously and Red Rising was a glorious melange of politics, brutality, rebellion, life, death... It had all the qualities one would expect from some of the truly great books. I don't know how Pierce Brown can possibly top Red Rising, but I'm so excited to find out because it is almost mid 2014 and Red Rising is already by far the best book I've read this year, and the series can potentially make my all time favourites list. I adored Red Rising and I implore you to read it.