Red Rising is easily my favorite book of 2014 – and we’re only in January. Red Rising is one of those books that sneaks up on you. It starts off slowly and then takes off in a rush of adrenalin. The opening line sets the tone:
”I would have lived in peace. But my enemies brought me war."
And so begins an amazing thrill ride… I think I Red Rising because of many factors. The world building was fascinating and highly detailed. Red Rising is set on Mars in the future. Mars has been colonized by humans who live both above and below the surface. Those who live below the surface are the Reds – the lowest caste, the miners. They’ve been led to believe that their work is to mine the material needed to make Mars habitable. On the opposite end are the most privileged, the Golds, the top of the castes. Other color coded castes populate the planet, each color specializing in a certain specialty such as science, medicine, service, policing, etc.
Red Rising has one of the more interesting teenage characters I’ve met in years. Darrow is only 16 years old and a Red, a child of miners and a miner himself since he was 13 years old. He’s a Helldiver, a particularly dangerous type of miner and he’s one of the best in his region. Darrow is happily married to the love of his life Eo and they are literally head over heels in love with each other. Darrow’s happiness is cut short when Eo is executed for inciting rebellion. Darrow’s grief is overwhelming and in an act of compassion, he buries his wife and gets sentenced to death.
The story takes off from here. Up to this time, there have been only whispers that all is not well in this world. It is forbidden to even sing a simple song, as it is the song of the rebels. Darrow finds himself resuscitated and whisked away by the members of the rebellion. He is surprised to find that there are cities on the surface of the planet. Darrow agrees to infiltrate the Golds and become one of them which is not an easy feat as he undergoes numerous surgical procedures, pain, coaching, and even learning how to read, all so that he could pass as a Gold and enter their Institute.
When we finally see what it is that the Golds do to train their leaders, it is shocking and appalling. This is Game of Thrones meets The Hunger Games and Lord of the Flies on speed. Kill or be killed. Fight or become a slave. It’s not really individuals against individuals – it’s house versus house. Some of the houses have advantages either in location, equipment, food, or soldiers. Several characters stand out in this part, notably Sevro, who at first glance, did not seem like much but his fierce and wolf-like behavior were a real asset for Darrow. Mustang was a good ally as well, and surprisingly tough when necessary. Then there was the fearsome Jackal, the one adversary that all the houses were afraid of.
The game has no rules and no time frame. The winner is the person who controls all 12 houses. Darrow has a unique insight into the game. He has nothing to lose. Once he learns that the game is rigged, he “breaks” the rules himself. Darrow is also remarkably civilized. When he hears that a girl has been raped, he punishes the offender with 20 lashes, earning the respect of others.
The writing is powerful, evoking the senses, the emotions, and the atmosphere. I loved how Darrow was portrayed. He kind of was 16 going on 30, which may not be a good thing in most young adult books, but his life experiences added to his maturity. Even though Eo only appeared in the first few chapters, her presence was greatly felt throughout the novel as Darrow was constantly living for her and grieving her loss.
Red Rising was an amazing read. I want to read the next book now, now, now!
Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Del Rey Spectra for a review copy of this book.
Review posted on Badass Book Reviews. Check it out!