- Title: Red Rising
- Author: Pierce Brown
- ISBN: 0345539788 (ISBN13: 9780345539786)
- Series: Red Rising Trilogy #1
- Published: January 28th 2014 by Del Rey (Random House)
- Format: Hardcover
- Genre/s: Sci-fi/Dystopian
- Source: Publisher
- Rating: A
Recent discoveries about Mars make the premise behind Pierce Brown’s phenomenally successful debut Red Rising all too plausible. The red planet, so named for its ruddy appearance, which is due to a high concentration of iron oxide on the surface, bears many similarities to Earth and could under the right combination of circumstances and scientific advancement become habitable one day in the not too distant future. The science fiction/dystopian novel features a disturbingly credible scenario, that of a hierarchal society differentiated by colour ostensibly working towards a common good, the terraforming of a new planet, which is in fact an elaborate con.
Darrow is a Helldiver, one of a thousand men and women who live in the vast caves beneath the surface of Mars. Generations of Helldivers have spent their lives toiling to mine the precious elements that will allow the planet to be terraformed. Just knowing that one day people will be able to walk the surface of the planet is enough to justify their sacrifice. The Earth is dying, and Darrow and his people are the only hope humanity has left.
Red Rising has been compared to popular novels like Suzanne Collins‘ Hunger Games dystopian YA trilogy and George R. R. Martin‘s Song of Ice and Fire series. Whereas I was immediately put in mind of two lesser known but no less complimentary comparisons, the first being the 1997 Academy Award nominated film Gattaca, starring Ethan Hawke and Jude Law and the second Sharon Shinn’s 2001 novel Heart of Gold.
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.
Like Shinn’s Heart of Gold the world that Darrow occupies is a caste system, he exists in a virtual rainbow of oppression. When man began colonizing in space, a system was devised to accommodate the division of labour. Genetic engineering and surgical manipulation furthered the development of a society with an oppressive elite class reminiscent of Gattaca where children are the product of eugenics or genetic manipulation and those with damaged or weak DNA are relegated to the fringes of society. Ethan Hawke’s character, the product natural conception, struggles to disguise the frailties of his DNA and join the privileged upper classes much the way Darrow is later schooled to pass as a member of the gold elite.
As a helldiver, Darrow is prepared to sacrifice himself for the promise of a better future. A member of the red class, he toils deep beneath the planet’s surface. The reds require physical stamina and fortitude as they are the labouring class used for work in agriculture and mining. The browns are unskilled labourers commonly holding positions as servants. The obsidian class are used for battle, a commodity held by the golds to demonstrate their status. Pinks like the obsidian class are viewed as a status symbol and work in the sex trade. Greys police the other classes but have been engineered to have little original thought or initiative but are disciplined and loyal to their gold masters. The orange classes are responsible for skilled and technical occupations often supporting and maintaining machines of all variety. Violets are musicians, artists and entertainers and valued by the upper classes. The green class consists of engineers and system administrators, yellows are the academia and include physicians and scientists among their numbers. Blues are adept at navigation and mathematics, and often work amongst the crew on board starships. The silver, white and copper classes comprise the upper echelon below the gold consisting of spiritual leaders, government workers and financial advisors. The gold are the ruling class managing the others as a autocracy.
Ultimately Red Rising poses the question to the reader that Darrow and Harvey Dent/Two Face before him, ironically struggled with in The Dark Knight “you either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” (De La Noy, Melniker & Nolan, 2008) Unfortunately we have to wait until the remainder of the trilogy is published to find out which eventuality Darrow’s future holds.
Pierce Brown spent his childhood building forts and setting traps for cousins in the woods of six states and the deserts of two. Graduating from college in 2010, he fancied the idea of continuing his studies at Hogwarts. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a magical bone in his body. So while trying to make it as a writer, he worked as a manager of social media at a startup tech company, toiled as a peon on the Disney lot at ABC Studios, did his time as an NBC page, and gave sleep deprivation a new meaning during his stint as an aide on a U.S. Senate campaign. Now he lives Los Angeles, where he scribbles tales of spaceships, wizards, ghouls, and most things old or bizarre.
Disclaimer: ARC was kindly provided by the publisher for an honest review.