Red Rising follows Darrow, a Red who, like all Reds, mines various elements on Mars to help terraform the planet’s surface for themselves and all of the other colored classes, including the superior Gold class. Darrow’s world is eventually torn apart when he discovers that his life is a lie and he is recruited by a rebel group that vows to bring the Golds down from within. Now Darrow must pretend to be a Gold in order to achieve the rebellion’s goals. But first, Darrow must survive the command school’s test that all Gold children must face, and that includes surviving the other students.
Red Rising, on the surface, is an obvious futuristic, dystopian novel that looks heavily on issues of class and race. But let’s be honest. So many books have undertones of something that we really shouldn’t roll our eyes and think “here’s another one.” So, looking past that, Red Rising is a fantastic, sci-fi military thriller and Brown does a great job of genre-blending. At its core this is a science-fiction novel. However, the test that the Gold students perform in is set in a medieval-esque landscape. It was a really interesting step in a different direction.
Admittedly Darrow turns out to be quite a bit of a “Larry Stu” character; he is the strongest, smartest, and most cunning. It’s a little hard to believe since everyone else in the test has been raised to do the things he just does naturally. Some might get very turned off by it, but I was never bothered by it. In fact, I thoroughly enjoy books that read like a video game or action movie where the main character just kicks butt. In essence, that’s what Red Rising kind of is. It reminded me a lot of the Ender’s Game movie (sorry, never read the book), and a little like the Hunger Games trilogy (though a bit better).
Are there better science-fiction-military-thrillers out there? Probably. Is Red Rising still a fun read and interesting story? Definitely. I highly recommend this to action fans that enjoy a lot of fighting in their books. You won’t be disappointed.