“Red Rising" written by Pierce Brown is the first of a thrilling science fiction saga that spans six books.
“I would have lived in peace. But my enemies brought me war" - Darrow
For me, the opening line really served as a powerful gateway into the suspenseful atmospheric narrative. It provided immediate depth to the character, setting the tone of inner turmoil and moral ambiguity, exploring themes of power and rebellion.
Set in a color-coded society on a terraformed Mars, the story plunged me deep into a meticulously crafted universe where one's fate is determined by the color they are born into. The narrative follows Darrow, a lowly Red miner who toils beneath the surface. When a tragic event pulls back the curtain on the grand deception played upon the Reds, Darrow embarks on an audacious journey of revenge and societal upheaval.
Through the eyes of Darrow, we witness the stark disparities and brutalities of the color-coded hierarchy that dwells within the red plains of Mars. The Reds, believing that their labor is pioneering a better future for their descendants, are oblivious to the reality that Mars has been habitable for generations. Their sacrifices serve only to sustain the opulence and domination of the Golds – the superior, ruling class.
Pierce Brown masterfully weaves a narrative that is both visceral and emotional, it ensnared me to Darrow's despair and rage that transmitted for a feeling of hollowness within me. The tragedy is a catalyst, plunging him into a violent, vengeful quest that ascends from the cavernous mines to the dazzling heights of Gold society that rules the entire Solar System.
One of the striking features of "Red Rising" is the world-building. Brown crafts intricately a society which, though set on a distant planet, reflects our own in its stark divisions and insidious perspectives. The caste system is not just a sociopolitical hierarchy but a biologically engineered division, whereby each color fulfills specific roles and embodies distinct physical and intellectual attributes.
The difficult process of breaking free from deeply ingrained prejudices is a challenge Darrow undertakes - one that we, as humans, must as well. The parallels that can be drawn between this fictitious universe and our own is frightening. The theme of freedom traverses across all realms of life, real or not. The raw hunger that festers in the belly of the chained, not for food but for liberty, is what throughout reality sparks the rebellion.
“Man cannot be freed by the same injustice that enslaved it.”
Us, the reader, are the silent companions of Darrow. That is how I felt at least whilst reading the novel, an observer to the heartache and emotional storm lurking within him. Brown tied me emotionally to him. As the cloth was pulled from his eyes for the first time, I was also blinded by the light. As he attempted to traverse the deception of a Machiavellian society, I too was in utter awe at the complexities at play coming from all different angles. As he forms alliances and friendships, each meticulously layered with motivations and fears, I too felt that stir of both sympathy and revulsion.
I implore you to keep in mind that "Red Rising" is essentially the foundation for the subsequent books to build upon the revolt against an unjust regime.
Now, I leave you with one more of my favorite lines from the novel, “I am the Reaper and death is my shadow.”
Note: Some scenes are notably graphic and might be distressing to certain readers.