By: Pierce Brown
My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Genre: Adult, SciFi, Dystopia
Synopsis: “I live for the dream that my children will be born free,” she says. “That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.”
“I live for you,” I say sadly.
Eo kisses my cheek. “Then you must live for more.”
Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world 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 sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so
The first section of this review will be spoiler free.
This book was one of my first leaps into adult SciFi, and I was not disappointed. At first I was a bit thrown by the violence and graphic imagery that was thrown at me, but once I got used to I really enjoyed the story. It was a rich and complex narrative, with intense characters and well established world building. The darker tone and high stakes of this book were reminiscent of Patrick Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go. Early on as we are introduced Darrow and his wife Eo, we quickly realize that life is not easy in this dystopian future and it does not get better as the story goes on. I will say that there was a lot of world building and new vocabulary thrown at me all at once and that made it hard for me to really get into the story. After a few chapters it was a bit better, but I still found myself forgetting who characters were until about halfway through. Oddly enough the story reminded me of a high fantasy, especially because of all the technical terms, which is a genre I am well used to, but if you are someone who struggles with those this may not be the book for you.
My favourite elements of the story were the tension, suspense and drama. They really pulled me in when I was ready to give up on the story. I will say again as a disclaimer, this book contains graphic violence and a few sexual scenes with reference to rape and torture. I was not prepared for that when I started reading as I originally found this book in the YA section. It quickly became apparent to me that it was in that section of the bookstore by mistake. Darrow may be a teenager in years but this book is definitely a work of adult SciFi with adult content.
If you are a fan of intricate world building and fast paced futuristic story lines this is definitely the book for you. I personally have not read the rest of the series (I believe there are 4 books so far) I have heard they are all very good, so I will probably be reading them in the future.
When I said that I figured out this wasn’t a teen book early on, it happened at a very specific moment. First I was surprised that Darrow was married, and my original thought was is there not going to be any love drama since he and Eo seemed to love each other very much? but then they went and killed her. Like in the first few chapters… Basically Darrow and Eo discover that the Golds (the elite) have been lying to them, they are flogged and as an act of defiance Eo sings a forbidden song. She is hanged for it. I was shocked, we were barely introduced to her before she martyred herself to give Darrow the much he needed to fight for their people. Later when Darrow has infiltrated the academy for Golds we get to the bulk of the shocking behaviour. In a “training” exercise they break the kids into teams, each getting their own castle to defend. This get ugly fast as kids turn to raid each others’ castles, take prisoners, torture and maim and even kill (like I’m sorry who is supervising this school and should they maybe think about putting in some security measures?!) to win. In the end Darrow wins and is offered a position with the Archgovernor (the most powerful man on Mars) which he accepts.
Have you read Red Rising? what were your thoughts?