Book Review: Red Rising

While I said in an earlier review that Divergent is nothing like The Hunger Games, and could not see why the two were ever compared, Red Rising is, in fact, similar. But allow me the next few paragraphs to explain.redrising

On the planet Mars, the world is split into castes, and those castes are represented by colors. Gold being at the top; Reds at the bottom. When I say “bottom,” I mean bottom. The Reds mine the bowels of the planet. It is a dangerous job. It is one they are proud to do. Their mining will one day allow people to live on the planet’s surface. In a way, they feel like they are saving humanity.

Darrow, the main character, operates a drill. It requires brains, and skill, and more than a little bit of recklessness. Recently married, Darrow puts his time in on the job, and then enjoys spending time with his wife, Eo and family. There are guards in place, and although the Reds volunteered to mine on Mars, there still needs to be order. Food is scarce. Competitions are devised. Groups that dig deepest win. Winning involves baskets of food and other hard-to-get items. Darrow’s group has never won before. The skeleton visible under his wife’s skin is constant proof of the failure. The need to provide, and protect family is what Darrow clings on to.

Eo is more than a strong wife. She is a strong person. She reveals a truth to her husband. It shatters the world Darrow has always known. The Reds have been lied too. Mars is already a thriving planet. Government has kept them in the mines for generations; has let them starve needlessly. Unfortunately, the knowledge shared comes with a price. There is always a price. With it, Darrow agrees to undertake a secret assignment. He will leave the Reds and become a spy. After enduring a year of changes, training and education, Darrow infiltrates the Golds.

Now as a Gold, Darrow is sent to school. The school is not unlike The Hunger Games’ battlefield. Except, in Brown’s book –it is worse. Darker. More violent. More ruthless. The students are split into Houses. The Houses are overseen by Proctors. The Proctors report to leaders. At the end of the game there can only be a single winner; a Primus. Each House ultimately needs to pick a leader. The Houses will then battle against each other, until one house is left standing. Until one Primus has control over it all.

piercebrownIt isn’t that the other students will not get sponsors after the games. The talented and skilled ones will. It is the Primus will have his pick.

As you can then imagine, the war begins at home. Months go by as each House struggles to establish it’s own Primus.  From there, Houses are then pitted against houses. Who will win? Which House will be triumphant and which student will be the victorious Primus of the games?

If Red Rising is like The Hunger Games — it is The Hunger Games on steroids. Brown has clearly created a world with defined language, and defined hierarchy. The characters are well-crafted. I read the book fast, constantly needing to read what happens next. I’d set the book down, and think about it until the next time I was able to pick it up. A powerful story full of violence. It is intense, dark and infuriating — I loved the Red Rising. Loved it. I and cannot wait for the sequel.

Phillip Tomasso
Author of The Vaccination Trilogy

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