From classics such as Ayn Rand’s “Anthem” and George Orwell’s “1984,” to modern works like “The Hunger Games” trilogy by Suzanne Collins and the “Divergent” trilogy by Veronica Roth, dystopian fiction still remains a popular genre amongst many teens and adults. Now, after the multimillion-dollar success of “The Hunger Games,” Hollywood lurks in the ocean of dystopian novels to find the next lucrative film. Since Collins has taken over today’s dystopian fan club with her series of bloodthirsty teenagers, many novels find it difficult to surpass the standards set by Collins and other popular authors. However, “Red Rising” by Pierce Brown, published on Jan. 28, 2014, may join the ranks of today’s popular dystopian series.
“Red Rising” has all the qualities of a great dystopian novel: a meager protagonist who works in a mine, a superior class that oppresses the lower society, a hierarchal society that is separated by colors, which designate their profession in the fictional world and a group of rebels that wants to dismantle the hierarchy.
The story is set on Mars, the red planet. Darrow, the story’s protagonist, is a teenage miner and a Red, the lowest class in Martian society. All castes on Mars are represented by a color. Reds labor in the mines, where they prepare the uninhabited areas of the planet for society’s expansion. The leaders of this color-coded hierarchy are the Golds. The Golds are super-humans, giants adept in the martial arts who possess extraordinary strength. They not only control Mars, but some stronger Gold families even own asteroid belts and other unknown areas of space. In between the Golds and the Reds lie other professions with their corresponding colors: doctors are Yellows, military and police personnel are Grays, prostitutes are Pinks, artists and designers are Violets and there are eight more colors with their individual labors. Obviously, this design of society creates strife between the colors.
The plot of “Red Rising,” though predictable, is still quite exciting. The story begins slowly, giving a background of the world and an explanation to why people are on Mars. Earth still exists but only makes a cameo appearance. Two to three chapters in, Darrow has a traumatic experience, which fuels his hatred of the Golds, and after a series of unfortunate events, he is removed from society. The events that occur in the early chapters will stupefy many readers, but this will soon be explained as the story goes on.
After these traumatic events, Darrow’s only goal in life is to kill the Golds, but because the Golds are an extremely powerful and intelligent class, Darrow must approach his revenge sensibly. After meeting a few key characters, Darrow undergoes major plastic surgery by a Violet. He is pumped full of futuristic steroids which give him strength, height and bulging muscles. He is skinned and then given Gold-standard skin, which is apparently beautiful and godlike. His eyes are removed and replaced with golden irises. In sum, he undergoes excruciating pain to become a Gold. No pain, no gain.
Following Darrow’s beautification, he goes to an elitist institution that teaches its students how to become leaders and conquerors. He meets important characters that’ll either become his friends or his enemies. Darrow is placed into a House depending on his abilities. He plays a barbaric war game similar to the trials of “The Hunger Games,” where Darrow and his House conquer castles and enslave other Gold students, biding his time until he can exact his revenge.
Since “Red Rising” is the first installment in the trilogy, the story ends after the war simulation is over. The second book, “Golden Son,” was recently released. Brown has also signed a deal with Universal for a future film.
“Red Rising” is a fantastic dystopian novel. Darrow has his annoying moments, especially when he wants to kill everybody. However, the other characters are interesting and Brown successfully draws readers into the story with his vivid style. The story works well, even if it is “Hunger Games” in space, and the book has received numerous positive reviews from Goodreads and Entertainment Weekly. It is well worth the read, and suggests that coming installments are to be looked forward to.