Darrow is a Helldiver, one of a thousand men and women who live in the vast caves beneath the surface of Mars. Generations of Helldivers have spent their lives toiling to mine the precious elements that will allow the planet to be terraformed. Just knowing that one day people will be able to walk the surface of the planet is enough to justify their sacrifice. The Earth is dying, and Darrow and his people are the only hope humanity has left.
Until the day Darrow learns that it is all a lie. Mars is habitable – and indeed has been inhabited for generations by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. The Golds regard Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.
With the help of a mysterious group of rebels, Darrow disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside.
But the command school is a battlefield. And Darrow isn’t the only student with an agenda.
There are a lot of books out there that get described with something like “The next Hunger Games”. This one is not only described as “The Hunger Games meets Game of Thrones” but it also says “Ender, Katniss, and now Darrow” on the cover. The difference between a lot of these books and this one is: these descriptions fit. That’s exactly how you can describe this book. Reading Red Rising felt like a mix of SciFi and Fantasy and Darrow has an epic battle ahead of him that’s just as cruel and life threatening as the one Katniss has to fight.
For me this story had a rough start. I had trouble to get into it and completely enjoy it. I think the reason why is that I didn’t feel any real connection to the characters in the beginning. This was such a strange new world that it took some time to get to know everything. The turning point for me was when something very emotional happened and Darrow found his motivator to fight the system. Right there I finally thought that I knew Darrow, that I understood what is going on in his head, what he’s like. After this one incident everything changed. Even though most of these characters aren’t the likeable ones, those kind you like right from the start but rather ones you have to spend some time with to start caring about them, I wasn’t as troubled anymore as I was at the start.
It was interesting to get to know them all page by page, especially with this scenario of Darrows school, and what they went through to get there.
Before I started reading this I was already excited about the setting: beneath the surface of Mars. But that was only the beginning and also the setting I had troubles imagining. Pretty early there is a change of setting though and suddenly I was thrown into a scenario that completely blew my mind because I never expected to read something like that in this book (even though I heard about it being a mix of THG and Game of Thrones). I was feeling I switched books and was now reading an epic fantasy instead of some scifi dystopian.
While reading this you only get a glimpse into this world on Mars. There is still so much to get to know that I wish I could have read the next to books right away. The end of this book promises to throw us into yet another world from what we’ve got to see so far.
Darrow has to fight a battle and prove himself. This battle is even worse than The Hunger Games when it comes to cruelty and losses. Besides that Darrow has to fight for his life and that other people are watching all this, this is far from like the Hunger Games. It’s a different scenario with different reasons why it happens. What makes this so much more intense is that the battle’s losses seem so unnecessary. They don’t have to kill but some characters seem to like to do exactly that very much, just for fun. They hurt other people, just because they can. In my opinion this was worse than The Hunger Games but more thrilling at the same time.
While reading this you’ll get to see a lot of people dying in a lot of different scenarios but all because of this strange new society. Right from the start there is always something going on, always new things to get to know, multiple changes of location, which all combined make Red Rising an action-packed and fast paced story.
With all these losses, with the lives people are living, being slaves, this is a rather dark, depressing story, filled with hopelessness. It was still able to make me laugh sometimes though. Even in the middle of a battle some character or other sometimes did or said something that made me laugh. Even in the most horrible situations there could be found something to cheer you up again.
What bothers me quite often when reading dystopian novels, is that they often lack an early and detailed explanation of how it came to this new kind of society. Not so with this one. Even though Darrow has no idea at the start, it will get revealed pretty early in the story. Just the main facts about the past and the process though. There is still a lot to find out about to keep this interesting of course.
Red Rising is an epic mash up of different genres that is able to amaze on a lot of different levels. The worldbuilding is fantastic and makes for a story that never gets boring and always has some surprises in store.
I can’t imagine what’s going to come next but I hope it’s as thrilling as this one. If this series keeps up being like this I might have found a new favorite series of mine.