The planets are being colonized, but that colonization requires extensive and very difficult physical labor. At least, that’s what Darrow, the protagonist of Red Rising, thinks at the start of the novel. He works as a miner of helium-3; he is a “red”, a member of the lowest caste of society, where the “golds” are rulers. But not all is as it seems in Pierce Brown’s powerful first novel.
With shades of Ender’s Game, Hunger Games and Brave New World, Brown paints a believable future world where the castes are separated not just by social and economic sanctions but by genetics and training. Each caste has its assigned role, whether as rulers (the golds), slaves (reds), entertainers (including prostitution), soldiers, scientists or what-have-you.
But after Darrow’s wife is killed for singing a forbidden song, he casts his lot with a group of rebels that have a plan for a red rising: They will make him a gold, he will infiltrate their society, rise to power and start a revolution. But Darrow learns that, even for a gold, there are barriers to advancement, and the resulting novel is one of youthful battle dictated by adults (as in Ender’s Game), rebellion (as in Hunger Games) and revenge (there’s a tint of Girl with the Dragon Tatoo here too).
I finished Red Rising in two days. It’s not a perfect novel (if there is such a thing). It’s not a masterpiece of prose and it’s a bit over-the-top. But the battle scenes are well depicted, the characters are interesting and the plot keeps you turning the pages.
The problem is that it’s the start of a projected trilogy and the next volume isn’t due out until early 2015.
You can follow Pierce Brown on Twitter where he is @Pierce_Brown