"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 lush wilds 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." - from Goodreads
The Red Rising trilogy is one of those series that my friends have been telling me about and which I took way too long to get started. But now that I'm in it, I understand the hype...to a certain degree.
To put it very very succinctly (and to steal the words from a friend): Red Rising is 40% setting up the story/world and 60% Hunger Games.
It's a bit slow going at the beginning, where you're introduced to the characters and briefly to the 'colour' system that human beings have adopted as their new form of racism and there is an attempt to get you to care about the characters (i.e. Darrow).
For me, the ball did not start rolling until the big reveal that everything the Reds knew/know was a lie which had me going:
I mean, I never read the full synopsis of the book, so I wasn't expecting it at all, which made it a very pleasant surprise. What proceeded after that is an interesting look into privilege and power and politics and how human beings just don't really change in terms of subjugating each other, with a little bit of Hunger Games/Harry Potter (kind of...you'll see what I mean)/Divergent/Lord of the Flies dystopia mixed in. Just, a lot more savage.
Putting aside the carnage, and some unnecessary rape implications, I think my favourite part of the book was seeing how these kids (for they are kids at the end of the day) fared when put in a survival, no rules barred situation where it's made very clear that only the strong survive. They are, from the beginning, pitted against each other to create a generation of ruthless humans 'worthy' of ruling, so to speak. The dynamics between those who are privileged and used to getting what they want put against those who would do anything to survive is fantastically brutal.
Darrow, our protagonist, the hero we are meant to root for, got on my nerves. I can't quite explain why, other than the fact that he came off very whiny and self-involved and way too into hearing himself speak. Honestly, if not for the circumstances/colour of his birth, the way he's portrayed makes me feel like he would have been just as cruel and self-important as the Golds he fights against.
There are other characters much more sympathetic than he, despite the privilege they were born into, that I wanted to learn more about than Darrow. But alas, it is his journey we are following. (P.S. the Howlers = squad goals)
Okay, maybe I'm being a little mean, he's not *that* bad.
In terms of history, of how humanity got to the stage of a) being in space and b) having a literal colour-based hierarchy, I wish there was more, and I'm hoping for more in the next two books. I was also a bit put-off by the mixing of mythologies/naming when it came to the houses. Either go for Greek or the Roman counterpart, why both?
Overall, despite the slow start, Red Rising is a fun, action packed sci-fi dystopia with enough death to satisfy the most blood-thirsty and enough fighting-the-power and slow subterfuge to satisfy all our inner anarchists.
(Some) Memorable Quotes:
“Man cannot be freed by the same injustice that enslaved it.”
“I look at him for a moment. Words are a weapon stronger than he knows. And songs are even greater. The words wake the mind. The melody wakes the heart. I come from a people of song and dance. I don’t need him to tell me the power of words. But I smile nonetheless.”
If anyone has read and of the Red Rising books, let us know what you think in the comments below! Comments also open to further book/movie/show recommendations, anything you’d like to see reviewed, or general feedback. We’d love to hear what you have to say!