Title: Red Rising
Author: Pierce Brown
Genre: Science fiction, dystopia
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Everything that everyone else has said about Red Rising is true. It really is as gritty, dark, and horrifying as people say. It is quite accurate to describe it as a cross between The Hunger Games and Ender's Game; it has young people doing atrocious things in an attempt to not just survive but win. Although superficially more similar to The Hunger Games and Battle Royale, I think Red Rising is more on par with Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl. People go through horrific situations, and some people are seen as less than others; this is a story about resilience and fighting for a voice and freedom.
Darrow is a Red, part of the lowest class of the hierarchy on Mars. As a helldiver, he risks his life every day to pave the way for the future grand cities of Mars. Or so he is told. When his wife, Eo, is executed, Darrow is recruited by a group that wants to give the Reds and lower classes of people the freedom they deserve. Darrow is shocked when he learns the truth of his existence as a Red, and even more shocked when he realizes what he will have to sacrifice in order to bring Eo's dream to life - he will have to sacrifice his body, mind, and identity as a Red in order to become one of the Golds and destroy them from the inside.
Once Darrow transforms into a Gold, he soon finds out that he has barely even begun. Survival in this delicately balanced political world takes manipulation and strength; lives can be destroyed in an instant. As a sample of the Gold leaders' view of the world, they decide that rape is not a damaging and traumatic enough experience to pull someone out of the game/simulation that all Golds go through to become part of the elite. It's a brutal world, and Darrow makes plenty of mistakes along the way, but that's what makes this world even more harrowing and fascinating.
I only had a few minor complaints (and these are minor). I thought the first half of the novel was very heavy on jargon, which might make it less accessible to people who don't usually read sci-fi. My annoyance was not so much the jargon but the confusion that arose from having a class system that used both colors and greek letters; it was hard to keep track of who was considered higher than whom. I also felt that some of the minor characters were introduced and then swept aside rapidly. The cast of characters that were important enough to keep track of was constantly in flux, which made the story confusing at times.
There were also a couple of spelling errors, but I'm sure those will be edited and fixed in the final copy.
If you enjoy dystopian fiction and aren't easily disturbed by violence and gore, I highly recommend this book. I myself can't handle violence very well but I still enjoyed it.
*An ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley for an honest review*