Published by Random House on January 28, 2014
Genres: science fiction
Darrow is a miner and a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he digs all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of the planet livable for future generations. Darrow has never seen the sky.
Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better future for his children.
But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks 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 joins a resistance group in order to infiltrate the ruling class and destroy society from within. He will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies... even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.
Oh, Red Rising. Where do I even start with you? There were many “What in the world?!?” moments throughout this reading (that’s a good thing). This is essentially “Dystopian, eugenic, Capture the Flag on Mars”. For real.
I did a lot of creepy, evil smiling throughout. What can I say? This book served to further chill the cockles of my cold, dark heart, and I just loved it for that. This is a story for readers who, like me, are fascinated by these questions:
- What happens when your enemy becomes your friend?
- What happens when you become your enemy?
I’ve kept this as free of plot points as possible. The less you know about what is going on and what is going to happen the better. I wouldn’t want to deny you a single one of those jaw dropping moments.
I am absolutely horrified by the world of Red Rising which, to me, is always a sign that you’re doing dystopian right. Darrow is a Red, as low as low can be. His entire life has also been a lie. His journey to truth, transformation, and rebellion are kicked off by a series of tragic events that are sure to touch your heart and set your desire for vengeance burning.
You learn about The Society as Darrow does, and I really enjoyed the exposition part of the story where we learn more about other colors and their roles. There are a lot of disturbing elements to The Society, but I was particularly horrified and moved by the Pinks, the pleasure caste. We don’t see much of them in this book but what is seen is just so sad. It made my heart hurt. I shudder forever at the thought of being born into a life of what is essentially sexual slavery. I’d love to see more of the Pinks in future volumes, and I want retribution for them badly.
One of Red Rising‘s strengths lies in its strong cast of characters. Darrow is a lead with whom it is easy to sympathize. He’s not had an easy life but does have a strong heart (literally) and the courage and conviction to persevere. Interestingly, it is apparent from the beginning of the book that his wife is the “stronger” and more courageous of the two and it is her courage and strength that really supplies Darrow with his.
From reading the description you can see that it’s easy to root for Darrow, but he’s not perfect which is important to me. Darrow makes awful mistakes and some downright wrong moral decisions. But his heart is so good that you’re left with a yearning for him to learn from them and do the right things in the future rather than dislike the character.
There are side characters to cheer, to loathe, to love, and to fear. All of the secondary characters feel fully realized and three dimensional. It is so refreshing that many of them are girls and women. From what I’ve seen it appears that The Society is fairly gender equal. There are ample mentions of women in positions of power throughout the book. I am always so pleased with female characters who are allowed to be as flawed and complex as their male counterparts.
There are many surprising and shocking moments. Some are of the “wtf” variety. Some are of the tearjerking variety. All evoke strong emotion. There are scenes that left me with my jaw hanging wide open saying, “No. Way.” out loud. There are moments that had me practically reaching into my Kindle screen, whispering “Nooooooooo” as my heart crumpled. There will be tears I am telling you.
Do note that this is not Young Adult. The protagonist’s age brings crossover appeal, but this is a story with adult themes and content. This book does not shy away from displaying the brutalities of a ruthless society and the wars it wreaks not only on the lower castes, but on itself. It does not belittle the effects. There is no romanticization of violence and assault. Both are portrayed honestly and soberly. In many ways, this is a real and raw portrait of the consequences of war.
I am a total sucker, though, for some good old fashioned viciousness. I hope the following examples can help you decide whether or not this book is for you. There is a point where a character is noted to have strings of human teeth clinking in her hair. I literally cackled and said, “Ohhh the depravity” in a most gleeful tone. Later on a character talks of putting a dagger to throat and “carving a hole until the spine shows.” Again, I cackled in delight. What on earth is wrong with me?! I loved it since I am obviously a twisted sister. Your mileage may vary.
Also of note, there is very minimal romance. You should know that I am a huge fan of romance in my genre fiction. Some people prefer their romance in the backseat. I say put it in the front seat. Let it drive the car! It’s rather rare that I really like a book that doesn’t have a strong romantic component. So, for me to like this with its bare bones romantic aspect is a strong endorsement in itself. Still, I can’t help holding out hope for a little bit more in Book 2.
Red Rising will appeal to fans of dystopians in the vein of Battle Royale, those who enjoy lots of wtf-ery, readers who want romance in the trunk, and those who always wished that Molly Saves the Day took place on Mars in the depraved, dystopian future.
An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.