(#1 Red Rising Trilogy)
By Pierce Brown
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.
Picking this book up I was more than a little excited about the fact that it was described as a crossover between the Hunger Games and Ender’s Game. As such, I had high expectations. I will happily say that my expectations were surpassed. So much so that this book is easily ranked my favourite novel of 2014 thus far.
The premise is alluring. Who doesn’t love a good dystopian science fiction coupled with an underdog protagonist? And yet it was so much more intense than that.
The author pushes the boundaries of the overused dystopian genre. He takes his characters and makes them realistic, profound, fierce and passionate. He takes the plot and incorporates barriers, obstacles and plot twists that make your head swivel and your mouth drop open.
I was really impressed by the beginning of the novel. It starts off simply enough, you see him working and sweating his days away in the mines. He comes home to a loving wife, takes part in the yearly festivities etc. His life has already been established. What I really enjoyed was how brutally that was ripped away in the wake of the tragedy that strikes, and the lengths in which he deals with his grief.
Now, our protagonist Darrow climbs the ranks of society by disguising himself as a Gold, the highest ranking class. He gets admitted to the elite command school, where you must accomplish a series of tasks and undertake some serious challenges in order to graduate. The world of the command school is rough, bloody and gritty.
Darrow was a captivating and compelling character. He was at an incredible disadvantage coming into the academy but proved resourceful and willing to go the mile when thrust into the middle of the academy’s deadly war games. Our protagonist proves reliable in regaining his wits when the situation starts going downhill. He comes back in to the competition enlightened and battle hardened. Rule breaking and thinking on his feet seem to be his forte.
Not to mention that Darrow is one of the most well developed characters I have ever had the pleasure of being introduced to. He goes into the war games with absolutely no idea how to survive, or how to strive in such an environment. Whenever he makes a mistake (which he does several times) he acknowledges it. He learns from it and he moves forward using the experience, no matter how painful, as a tool in his future endeavours.
The plot was always intense and gripping. The action coming to a climax that left me laughing and screaming cheerfully at Darrow’s sheer brilliance. I am eagerly anticipating a sequel.