Publish Dates: Jan. 28, 2014/Jan. 6, 2015 | Publisher: Del Ray | Pages: 400/464 | Buy on: Amazon ~ IndieBound
RED RISING: “I live for the dream that my children will be born free,” she says. “That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.”
“I live for you,” I say sadly.
Eo kisses my cheek. “Then you must live for more.”
Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.
But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and lush wilds spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.
Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies . . . even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.
GOLDEN SON: As a Red, Darrow grew up working the mines deep beneath the surface of Mars, enduring backbreaking labor while dreaming of the better future he was building for his descendants. But the Society he faithfully served was built on lies. Darrow’s kind have been betrayed and denied by their elitist masters, the Golds—and their only path to liberation is revolution. And so Darrow sacrifices himself in the name of the greater good for which Eo, his true love and inspiration, laid down her own life. He becomes a Gold, infiltrating their privileged realm so that he can destroy it from within.
A lamb among wolves in a cruel world, Darrow finds friendship, respect, and even love—but also the wrath of powerful rivals. To wage and win the war that will change humankind’s destiny, Darrow must confront the treachery arrayed against him, overcome his all-too-human desire for retribution—and strive not for violent revolt but a hopeful rebirth. Though the road ahead is fraught with danger and deceit, Darrow must choose to follow Eo’s principles of love and justice to free his people.
He must live for more.
I’m not usually into violent books. While I love “Game of Thrones” on HBO, for example, I have never felt compelled to read the books. Because of my job, I’ve become desensitized to violence on screen, but reading the words has a different impact on me, and I tend to stay away… unless the book comes highly recommended by someone I trust. So at first all I knew about “Red Rising” was its grim and violent plot line. But at the end of last year, I saw that RED RISING was up for a bunch of Goodreads awards, and I read some stellar reviews from friends. I took a chance and downloaded the audiobook on Audible, and started listening… and immediately I was unable to stop. I stayed in the car after parking, just so I could listen to more of a chapter.
So what’s the deal, exactly? Darrow’s story arc is definitely the hero’s journey with familiar touches to anyone who’s read epic coming-of-age fantasies. He’s half orphaned (think Katniss, right down to the fact everyone’s a miner); he ends up at an elite war academy (like Ender); and at every turn, he’s part of a political Game that’s seemingly impossible to win (again “Game of Thrones”).
Darrow is relatively happy with his place in his Red community, but an unthinkable tragedy forces him into a situation where the only way to survive is to join an underground rebel group that plans to turn him into a sleeper agent/revolutionary. And it’s that transformation from Red to Gold that makes this story so fascinating. He’s got to be convincing at all times or he will die; but all that deep cover work can be confusing — especially when he realizes that Golds aren’t all what he expected. Some are kind, just, and even critical of oppressive Gold rule.
Yes, there is a lot of violence — even more in the second book, Golden Son, than the first. But the violence is necessary (even the controversial inclusion of rape and cannibalism and self-mutilation serves a purpose in the story), and it demonstrates how Darrow (or Reaper as he’s called, because his weapon of choice is the scythe) considers himself a weapon, even though killing brings him no joy. One of the things I love about Darrow is that he doesn’t think he’s the best. He’s not perfect. He is like the Daniel Craig version of Bond versus the Bonds who came before him; he has to get his knuckles bloody and his body dirty to beat the enemy. The most popular quote on Goodreads is as follows, with good reason:
You do not follow me because I am the strongest. Pax is. You do not follow me because I am the brightest. Mustang is. You follow me because you do not know where you are going. I do.
It’s Darrow’s sense of purpose that distinguishes him from most of his classmates, almost all of whom come from the most prestigious Gold families. But as with any great epic, these books are not *just* about Darrow’s journey. He needs a whole lot of help. He has two friends who are his Ron and Hermione — Sevro and Mustang — and a half-dozen other allies and enemies (or allies turned enemies and vice-versa) who are just as well-developed as the main characters.
I’m rambling at this point, but all I can say is that this is so much more than an action-packed fantasy; it’s about heartbreak and honoring those you’ve loved and lost; about finding your way out of the darkness; about figuring out a how to love and trust when no one truly knows you. And for once, the second installment is even better than the first, a true testament to Brown’s skills as an author (how many middle books are pure filler?).
Oh, and here’s the brand-new cover for MORNING STAR, which just debuted yesterday along with an awesome Q&A with Brown at EW.