I approached Red Rising with excitement and anticipation... and sweet mother of God was I not let down!
Red Rising tells the story of Darrow, a Helldiver on Mars. Darrow is a Red, one of a caste of people who are relegated to living deep in the bowels of Mars under the notion that they are working (by mining gas) to make the surface of Mars habitable for future generations. Except this is a lie. It turns out that Mars has been habitable for generations, and the Golds are maintaining the lie in order to protect their system of slavery and castes.
Inevitably Red Rising will be compared to other dystopian books like the Hunger Games... with the poor protagonist rising up against the rulers, a competition, and the Institute... but trust me... Red Rising is better... oh so much better.
Red Rising starts slow, but quickly picks up and reaches amazing levels of darkness, depravity, and horror. I absolutely loved the world that Brown created. The descriptions of the futuristic society on Mars, with its varied cultures and peoples, blew my mind. I also found the early chapters, where Brown introduces Darrow and describes his job as a Helldiver, to be fascinating (albeit a little slow). What propels this book into awesome territory however is its narrative. The dialogue alone ripped my emotional state to shreds, and I felt gaping holes appear in my heart at Darrow's plight as events unfolded around him. There is a certain rawness and hardness to Red Rising that works horribly well as you work through the story. By the end of it I was an emotional wreck, trying to deal with all the chaos that was unleashed.
Red Rising also captures perfectly the lengths humans will go to to hurt each other and to maintain their power. I was shocked at how depraved and cruel some of the characters were, and it certainly added to the poignancy and keen sense of darkness that lingered all throughout the story.
I also loved reading about the rivalries between the Houses, and I adored how Brown took the reader to the frontline as the rival competitors attempted to best each other, and as Darrow's attempts to bring down the system that has caused him and his caste so much pain unfolded.
All in all Red Rising is one of those books that comes along and just slaps you in the face... gripping yet also terrible. I could not put it down, and I cannot wait to read the sequel Golden Son.
4 out of 5 stars!