Red Rising begins underground on Mars, where Darrow works in a mine. While he and his family are very poor and suffering, he is convinced their sacrifice will help society. He's helping prepare the planet for terraforming, so others can live on the surface. Darrow doesn't see himself as a slave, but his wife, Eo, has other ideas.
Society is divided into classes, specified by color. Darrow and his family are Reds, the lowest class. The Golds are the rulers. I won't go into details, but Darrow ends up being recruited to work for the resistance, and what he sees makes him realize that the Reds have been deceived by the Golds. Mars is already terraformed, and millions of people are enjoying life on the surface. Darrow must undergo a complete change, physically and intellectually. The plan is for him to infiltrate the Golds; become one of them and start a revolution from within. He must first pass a test to get into a school where he will be trained to be a leader.
I really loved this story, but had some problems with the execution. First, Darrow's excruciating ordeal to physically become a Gold is described in great detail. Once it's over, his physical prowess is never referred to again. I realize that all his competitors have the same characteristics, but you would think this would affect the way they fight and the ease with which they are injured. I needed a connection to the past.
Once Darrow passes the test, he is taken to "school"' where he must pass more tests, and then the students are divided into houses, each led by one of the Gold's. Darrow is selected for the House of Mars. Each house is given a castle, and the task is for one house to end up taking over all the others. Each house has different advantages and disadvantages.
Once we get to this part, it's like we aren't even on Mars anymore. It's a medieval battle on Earth, with horses and swords. Yes, there's 37% gravity. But once again, this is only mentioned a few times, and it doesn't seem to make any difference in the way they fight or give them any advantages. We never return to the underground portion of Mars, where Darrow came from, and although he refers to Eo, I just felt like I was in a different story. I needed a connection to the past.
The book is too long. It takes too long to describe Darrow's conversion from Red to Gold. The battles for the castles seem to just be the same thing over and over. There's deception, lying, changing of alliances, and some different strategies, but it just went on too long. I don't understand why every YA author thinks their book needs to be 400 pages, but it seems to be a trend. (OK, this one is a little less, but it SEEMED longer!)
The writing takes a bit to get used to. There is a lot of slang and unfamiliar words that are introduced in this world. I had to read a little slower, but I love this technique. It really makes you feel like you are IN the world. Once you are immersed, it becomes very easy. The characters are well-defined, although I'm not really attached. I was choked up at about page 50, but after "that" happened, I didn't fall in love. But each character is distinct, and the relationships felt true.
The premise is excellent, but as I said, the pacing a bit slow. I felt like Red Rising was a well-wrapped package, but it was missing the bow to tie it all up. I think it's worth it, though, and I would still recommend Red Rising to readers who enjoy dystopians and war books. Because I would mostly define Red Rising as a war book. Red Rising is the first book in a trilogy, so hopefully the next books will emphasize the world more than the war.
Published by Del Ray, January 28, 2014
ARC obtained from LibraryThing Early Reviewers
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