Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Red Rising

Darrow is a Red of Mars, dedicated to slaving away his entire life for the good of the upper echelons of humanity to live on Mars hundreds of years in the future. He mines for an element needed to terraform the planet and lives in poverty with his family and his wife Eo. One day, they are found in a forbidden place, meriting a whipping, but Eo sings a forbidden song sealing her death. Darrow buries her (which is also forbidden) and is executed. He wakes up later to find he was saved in order to do greater things. He is sculpted and tortured to become a Gold, the highest caste of his society. After becoming educated, he is sent into the Academy to become an influential and powerful member of society. Darrow isn't prepared for the Academy, but it will shape him to be the leader needed to bring the Society down and change nit forever.

I honestly thought Red Rising would be a lame Hunger Games rip off, but I was wrong bothers are definite parallels and similarities between the two books, but Red Rising is a wholly different experience. The first half of the book sets up the world, shows who Darrow is at his core, and follows his transformation from Red to Gold. Reds work at hard labor and die uneducated and poor, never being offered any opportunities to rise above their station. Even though he's only 16, Darrow is wise beyond his years. He is a married adult who provides for his family and tries futilely to make their lives better, a victim of a biased system. He is broken after Eo's execution, but struggles to make her rebellion and her dream a reality. He endures the most painful torture in order to move forward with the insane plan. Surprisingly, his Red skills make him quite suited to becoming a Gold. I feel so much for Darrow. He was lied to by all of society and only wanted a good life for his family. The callous treatment by the Golds and the injustices against Reds fuel his hatred and drive him to push through the pain. The beginning of the novel starts a little slow, but delves into deep emotions and politics very early. This is easily an adult novel and only seems to have the YA label because of the age of the main character.

The second half of the novel is the Academy. Darrow thinks that it will be an easy, plush, and purely academic experience. He is incredibly wrong and his introduction is to kill a fellow classmate in order to get into the Academy. Afterwards, they are separated in to Roman deity themed houses and compete to take over every other house. This part of the novel is most like other dystopian novels (Hunger Games and Lord of the Flies), but as I read it, I was so engrossed in the story and the vibrant characters that I never made any of those connections until reflecting on it later. The Proctors don't interfere at all at the beginning, even if students are dying. There are no real rules and the students are left to take each other over in the way they see fit, whether it's morally sound or not. The students are hardened quickly, faced with starvation, death, violence, and rape. Darrow learns a lot about how to become a leader and also makes a great many mistakes. Through all the politics, real friendships and real enemies are made. Darrow's friends and enemies are all richly imagined with their own sense of morality and quirks. My favorite were Pax, a giant of a man who hated Darrow intensely then became great friends, and Mustang, the woman who helped him when he was at his lowest point and gave him some hope in humanity.

Red Rising is an amazing debut novel. The ending made me both excited and outraged at the same time. The plot had crazy twists and turns that I never saw coming. I highly recommend it. The only lament I have is that I read it before it was even released, so I have to wait even longer to devour the next in the series.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

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