“I would have lived in peace. But my enemies brought me war.” – Darrow (Pierce Brown, Red Rising)
My love for sci-fi, dystopian novels has all but died off of late, probably because of the repetitive, dry nature of most new books in the genre of late. And I mean, if I’m to be honest here, Red Rising is essentially just a more intricate, well written, less romantic version of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. Brutal caste system designed to oppress the low and bolster the high? Check. Secret rebellion in the making? Check? Throw a bunch of children into an arena and tell them to fight? Check (I’ll concede a bit here- they did tell them that the goal wasn’t to actually murder each other, but that went to shit pretty fast and no one stopped them). If it weren’t for the poignant lack of star-crossed lovers, I would have almost though that I was reading The Hunger Games. Well, that and the fact that Red Rising doesn’t even take place on Earth (hence the sci-fi).
Red Rising’s story takes place in the distant future. Humanity (if it can be called that) has spread out across the solar system, and has also divided itself with a caste system of Colors. Golds rule over society, while lowReds like Darrow live out their entire lives beneath the surface of Mars, mining for helium-3, believing their hard work and sacrifice are all in an effort to eventually terraform the planet and make it habitable for future inhabitants. Darrow, like the other Reds of his colony, believes himself to be a pioneer of what will one day be a great civilization. This lie, fed to the Reds by the ruling Golds, is shattered when Darrow is recruited by the Sons of Ares, following the death of his wife. For the first time, Darrow sees the world above the surface- a world already terraformed and habitable, filled with the other Colors. Through the influence of the Sons of Ares, Darrow is Carved in a Gold, and thrown into the Golds most elite competition- the Institute. There, he fights among the children of the Peerless Scarred to become one of them. Should he win, he’ll be given the chance to apprentice to a Peerless Gold and further infiltrate their society. Should he lose, the penalty could be death.