*I received a free copy of Red Rising from Random House Publishing via Netgalley. This has in no way influenced my voluntary review, which is honest and unbiased *
Warning: This book includes mature content such as: sexual content, and/or drug and/or alcohol use, and/or violence.
“I live for the dream that my children will be born free,” she says. “That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.”
“I live for you,” I say sadly.
Eo kisses my cheek. “Then you must live for more.”
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 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 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.
Red Rising is a well-woven story set on Mars, in a dystopian society, where the readers follow Darrow from the mines where he extracts precious helium 3 to help the population from earth to come and colonize the red planet. The Reds working and living deep inside of Mars have little food, and everything is done to make sure the clans do not band together with each other – only staying with their own. Many things are forbidden, but not many people dare to rise and try to make things better. When Eo brings her husband to a secret place she’s found, a place that is fully terraformed already, Darrow has no idea what she means when she tells him they need to fight, and that he will be a leader to help the Red in the revolution.
At the start, Red Rising is about the hardship of the Red, the way they live and die, and how people look old already when they’re in their thirties. All of this is soon proved to be a lie, and Darrow goes through incredible things in order to change himself to become a Gold, the highest race, so that he can bring justice to all. Intricate politics, a complex world, and a new but not at all easier life awaits him, as he enters the institute so that he can become a person of power. And the tests he and his peers are put through are horrific to say the least.
Just before the middle of Red Rising, I was thinking about similarities to a movie, where Soviet children were sent to the US to become super-spies. This is what Darrow is meant to be, however, at his core, he still retains the morals of his family, and he might be one of the few people on the surface of Mars who actually knows how wrong all the propaganda they are all fed is. As he fights to survive, he finds allies and enemies among his new race, and the ultimate price – death – does not scare him in the least.
I really enjoyed the way Red Rising is written, from Darrow’s point of view, the readers really feel all he is going through, both the bad and the good. As he grows, it is impossible not to root for him, and I was hoping he would be able to keep his humanity and his Red soul as he experienced so much heartache I think I would have completely given up if I were in his shoes. A quite quick read, even if the story is very dense, Red Rising is a wild ride, showing the most base of human morality. How power beseeches more power, and the fact that building a society based on the sacrifice of some people does not bother those in charge.
In some ways, Red Rising also made me think of The Testing, even if the world and the way it works is different. The ruthlessness of the leaders is what made me feel this connection, and I have to say that even with all its gory darkness and desolate view of humankind still held some kind of hope, and I was surprised at the many twists and turns the story took before it was completed.
Darrow is an awesome hero, even if he is sometimes ruled by his anger and anguish, he still keeps what has always been important to him close to his heart, and that is one of the things that made him seem very real – and very human. The other characters are well fleshed out as well, both in their strengths and their weaknesses, and the overall plot is well done, too. Although Red Rising is very violent, the urge to read on never weaned, and I can’t wait to see what will happen next, if Darrow will indeed manage to rise among the Golds, and if he will still have soul if and when that happens.
If you enjoy reading dystopia, and to see how little we have really learned from history and wars of the past, you will probably enjoy Red Rising as much as I did. The world building is excellent, and even when I didn’t agree with the characters and their choices, it was possible for me to understand why they acted the way they did. Through all the horror and fighting, the tiny glimmer of hope never disappears, and I found myself wishing for a better world along with Darrow. The whole premise is a hard, harsh story showing just how unhuman humans can possible be.
I would have lived in peace. But my enemies brought me war.
“Power must be claimed. Wealth won. rule, dominion, empire purchased with blood. You scarless children deserve nothing. You do not know pain. you do not know what your forefathers sacrificed to place you on these heights. But soon, you will. Soon, we will teach you why Gold rule mankind. And I promise, of those among you, only the fit for power will survive.”
To be a Helldiver, they say your fingers must flicker fast as tongues of fire. Mine flicker faster.
Her face is aglow as she watches me, laughing as I fall to my knees and suck in the scent of the grass. It is a strange smell, sweet and nostalgic, though I have no memories of grass.
They are humans. But they’ve been made differently. Carved differently. A pretty young girl, no older than Eo, sits looking at me with emerald eyes. The wings of a white eagle sprout from the flesh of her back. She’s like something torn from a fever dream, except she should have been left there.
There’s more laughter across the square as he tells us to look at pathetic Athens, the birthplace of the cancer they call demokracy. Look how it fell to Sparta.
Others in my House may see animals of Earth, or curious creatures the Carvers decided to make for fun. But I see only food and clothing.