The Earth is dying. Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it. The Reds are humanity’s last hope.
Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it’s all a lie. That Mars has been habitable – and inhabited – for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down on Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.
Until the day that Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside. But the command school is a battlefield – and Darrow isn’t the only student with an agenda.
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I struggled with this book in the beginning. The premise was interesting but the story kept veering away from where I wanted the focus to be. Eo was too good to be true, and of course, you can see her death coming a mile away. If that’s what it takes to launch Darrow into action, though, then so be it. It’s around this time that I started to get a better feel for Darrow, and while I’m still not his biggest fan, I quite like that he’s a reluctant hero, that he wasn’t the one initially campaigning for change. I had major problems with the next section of the book. All of a sudden it was Uglies meets Percy Jackson meets The Hunger Games and I found myself rolling my eyes. These comparisons are unfair though, because they were only small parts of the story and Red Rising as a whole isn’t any of those books, and I would hesitate to even label it as YA.
Brown’s writing style isn’t my favourite, I had a lot of trouble remembering who the characters were supposed be, and the world building was a bit hit and miss. (For the most part compound words are thrown out with little explanation of what the objects/phenomena they describe actually are.) But then there are these amazing campaigns and battles and it’s a ridiculous but compelling story of posh wolf pelt wearing barbarians playing capture the flag with stun guns. I didn’t know this was something my life was lacking, but I live an enlightened life, these days. There’s politics and class, and it’s the class system that takes over every little thing in this world. The colour the characters are born to, the way they react to the other Houses, the way they govern their own Houses and then, Tribes. It’s a mess, but a fascinating mess.
The ‘game’ ends at the end of the book with a satisfyingly bloody storming of a castle, betrayals, character deaths and a nice introduction to Darrow’s supposed nemesis. The stage is set for a sequel that will hopefully give us a whole different story (I’ve heard the term ‘space opera’ bandied around in reference in Golden Son.) that is equally as bloodydamn enjoyable as the first.