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.
Some readers will peg Red Rising as a Hunger Games clone, and it has certainly put itself in that category. Not only in taking on a dystopian future with teen protaganists, but in quality as well. My fourteen year old son actually read this before I did and quite enjoyed it. As he can be fairly picky with his book choices, I was surprised given that I offered him the book to read without any preface and he tore through it in a couple days. Red Rising is much more than a clone, however, forging its own path and creating an interesting society and intricate characters.
Set in the future, mankind has conquered the stars and society. The strongest have been placed at the top of civilization in a feudal society, the peoples divided into color labels. The rulers are Golds, living in luxury and playing the "game of thrones." At the bottom of the ladder are Reds, a serf-like class whose task it is to serve their betters. A variety of colors range in between, every color having it's own physical traits, strengths, and weaknesses.
On Mars, the Reds work to build a better future for their people, but little do they know their whole way of life is a lie. The story focuses on Darrow, a Red and a bit of an 'everyman.' He takes on the typical traits of a Red, loyal to his family and clan, a good worker, clever. When the status quo is shaken up by the Golds and he sees the lie they are living in, Darrow breaks out of his mold (quite literally) and moves to make a real change for the future of their society by taking on the Golds and infiltrating their society.
Red Rising doesn't take the easy path of having Darrow simply go through the motions of accomplishing his goals. It examines society and the individuals created in it and looks at the bigger picture in creating a rebellion. The novel also takes the path that gives it the Hunger Games clone label, more than just the story's dystopian future setting, Darrow and the other boys and girls around him take part in (the school he is sent to) "The Institute's" own competition, pitting the various Gold tribes against each other to see who rises to the top. Though a bit more gritty than you'll see in Hunger Games, perhaps with a bit of Lord of the Flies mixed in, it keeps the pace moving, the drama high, and gives Darrow the chance to see how the Golds aren't so different from his own people.
Though the author certainly takes on a lot, sometimes with the various houses becoming confusing and not fleshed out as much as they could be, Red Rising is only the first in a trilogy and has plenty of time to explore more of the created world.
Probably one of the best young adult books to come out in the last couple years and as I said earlier, a favorite of my son's. Anyone that has enjoyed reads like Hunger Games, Divergent, Ender's Game, and similar young adult fair will really enjoy this. Only the first in a trilogy, author Pierce Brown may be the next big name in this genre by the time the saga wraps.
Red Rising hits shelves January 28th, 2014.