Sunday 19 February 2017

Red Rising, Pierce Brown

“You do not follow me because I am the strongest. Pax is. You do not follow me because I am the brightest. Mustang is. You follow me because you do not know where you are going. I do.”

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 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. 

* * * * * 
5 / 5

Incredible. I practically inhaled this book, reading it in under 24 hours. Think Hunger Games style tournament but weirder and even bloodier. Think Red Queen type society but far more developed and sophisticated. This book takes everything I love about young adult books and makes it more adult. 

Darrow is a Red, doing the most dangerous job in the mines beneath the surface of Mars. He thinks he and his brethren are working to make the surface of Mars habitable, giving up their freedom and their lives for the greater good of humanity. Little does he know that Mars is already inhabited by the upper "colours"; he and his people are kept in a state of slavery and servitude by the Golds. Golds are genetically superior, physically incredible, the closest state to divinity that humanity can be and this has made them cruel and callous beyond measure.

I was not raised in palaces. I did not ride horses through meadows and eat meals of hummingbird tongues. I was forged in the bowels of this hard world. Sharpened by hate. Strengthened by love. 

Darrow is given a chance to try and right this wrong, a place within the revolution, and he seizes it. Driven by fury, by righteousness, by hatred for his oppressors and love for his brethren, Darrow undergoes horrific surgery to become, or at least to appear to be, a Gold. Posing as one of them he infiltrates their command school which is shrouded in mystery. What he thought would be lessons turns out to be less classroom and more fully blown battleground, complete with castles and bloodshed. I won't write too much at risk of spoiling, but Red Rising's Hunger Games style warfare was psychologically gripping, the characters enthralling (and sickening), and the exploration of what it is to be powerful, what is means to lead, and what it is to divide, is fascinating and thought-provoking. 

Darrow himself is an interesting character. Yes, he seems overpowered and rather too good at everything to be really believable. But so does everyone else, and none of his victories come easily or without a price. He is strong, unyielding, clever, devious, imaginative, bold, and fierce. He also questions. He sees when he is heading down the rabbit hole: how much of a Gold, how brutal and horrible, do I have to become to defeat them? We see Darrow ask, and its clear there isn't an easy answer. 

I know I am impetuous. Rash. I process that. And I am full of many things-passion, regret, guilt, sorrow, longing, rage. At many times they rule me, but not now. Not here.

A few other notable mentions of the cast are Darrow's beloved wife Eo, his motivation for his show of resistance, and Sevro, a half wild boy who is the weakest of the House of Mars, Darrow's team on the battlefield. My notable favourite is Mustang: wild, unforgiving, and an unlikely ally. There's not really a 'big bad' of the book. In the game, The Jackal of the South is portrayed as Darrow's biggest threat, but in reality his challenges mostly lie within his own House. The only issue I have with the book is that at 50 or so pages before the end, it feels as though we are still halfway through the plot with a lot to wrap up. When it ended very suddenly (but also very epicly) I felt a little caught off guard. 

Other than that, Red Rising is a masterpiece of dystopian fiction. It is brutal, bloody, vulgar and disturbing, and it is full of passion and important questions. 

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