Title: Red Rising
Author: Pierce Brown
DARROW is among the best of the Reds, a community of miners working proudly and tirelessly deep beneath the surface of Mars to prepare the planet for colonisation.
They’re governed by the Golds, who see to the consistency of the workers, all the while insisting that there’s no greater ideal to strive towards.
When his wife, Eo, is hung for singing The Forbidden Song (an old protest against Gold cruelty), Darrow joins the Sons of Ares, a rebel group scrapping against the gilded regime. (Spoiler) Darrow is taken by them to the surface and shown the truth — Mars has in fact been colonised for years, and the Reds are only kept underground to keep the wheels of the grunt machine turning. (The universe includes other colours such as the technology-adept Blues, the medically inclined Yellows, and the pleasure-doling Pinks.)
Darrow is soon sent to the Carver, an expert in bodily mutilation who gives him the appearance of a Gold, after which he is tasked with infiltrating the academy, working his way up to the ArchGovernor (who gave the order against his wife), and crippling the system from within.
In the first of his trilogies (he’s already two books into the second), Brown gives us a hero, strong yet vulnerable, decisive yet unsure, who can hold his own against any other. Darrow, cutting through the ranks of his enemies, is weighted with a sense of realism found only in the finest of young adult titles, with complex characters and motivations, and untidy, unrelenting consequences. In this civilised, drama-starved world of debating, stonewalling and ceaseless analysis (not that I’m complaining), it’s satisfying to know that we can always immerse ourselves in stories where scores are settled the old-fashioned way — medievally and in an almost Shakespearean lingo. Brown even flirts here with the existential by questioning the price of war, and whether sowing disruption is worth it for the unknown waiting on the other side. Seeing Darrow growing into “The Reaper” is a saga I won’t soon forget.
— Omar Sayed.