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 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.
This is a tale spun with so much elegance and gravity that my words seem inconsequential. It exudes importance. And it is merely the beginning.
Okay, so the ACTUAL beginning of this book takes no prisoners. It thrusts the reader into a whole new world, to the point where your head starts spinning. THERE ARE SO MANY TERMS. What do they mean?! What is this society? But eventually, you adjust. While the set-up was a little long and boring (especially since you don’t really know what is going on), it is necessary. We NEED to understand the cause. We need to understand the people. It makes the payout worth it.
I loved the Institution. It was a little bit of Lord of the Flies and a little bit of The Hunger Games, but there was a twist. There was reason and purpose. Unlike many other books with neat concepts, this gives you the “bigger picture” right from the jump. It’s not a microcosm that explodes into a bigger takedown of society. It is an unabashed, calculated quest to take down the society (so uh, that’s definitely not a spoiler). Red Rising is about rage, desperation, and hope. Also, I want to mention that it totally fired shots at the flaws in The Hunger Games. From “Oh, we would never want to waste our best and brightest,”, to the anti-love story while healing in a cavernous refuge, Brown shows how things SHOULD shake out.
Brown builds a fascinating world. It is political, psychological, and philosophical. he forces readers to question the limitations of the mind and body, and consider people’s inherent differences. He slams you with words from Plato and Cicero, while providing more impactful examples of philosophers. He shows how even Plato’s Allegory of the Cave can be employed as a weapon (or perhaps, a carrot?). He turns the “ubermensch” into villains but then makes you wonder if they exist (and are deserving). He throws out an excruciating example that pinpoints the flaws in Machiavellian doctrine. He alludes to countless empires and rulers (Caesar and Alexander, anyone?). But more than all that, he examines the people. He examines obedience and power. Rather than copping out with some wavering sense of “peace” after building a shallow, seemingly-utopian-but-actually-dystopian world, Brown ambitiously works to MAKE that utopia. He provides a problematic, unjust world from the beginning (which is way more realistic anyway), and thrusts us into the journey of fixing it. As Darrow learns, so do we.
You grow to love these characters. Darrow is a faulty protagonist, but such a deserving one. You have to wonder if he can rise to be a great, or if he will fall to the temptations of such an exquisite life. You already see some shifting loyalties. You have to question Mustang’s motives. You have to cheer on Sevro, and pity the generations before who don’t have someone like Darrow to guide them. As a Proctor mentions, you have to wonder about the Jackal’s nature. You have to wonder about exceptions and the unpredictability of the people.
This story carries weight to it. Pierce Brown may be young (Or at least, he SEEMS really young?! LIKE, HE ONLY GRADUATED IN 2010?!), but he knows how to write a “bloody, gory” good story. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
- The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
- Lord of the Flies – William Golding
- Dominion (board game)
- Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin
- The Testing – Joelle Charbonneau
- Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card