Welcome to Mars.
“I would have lived in peace. But my enemies brought me war.”
Red Rising is one of my absolute favourite books of recent years. If you’ve asked me for a book recommendation, chances are this has been on the list. It’s been compared to The Hunger Games and Lord of the Flies (amongst other things), but you’d have to add a dash of the brutality of Game of Thrones into the mix. It’s an epic rollercoaster of a book, all the more astonishing for being a debut novel. There’s a huge cast of characters, all beautifully realised and well-rounded, and the world-building is absolutely top-notch.
It’s one of those books that you just lose yourself in, and emerge blinking into the daylight at the far end. I devoured it over the course of a weekend when it first came out, staying up entirely too late (and getting up entirely too early) to read just one more chapter.
So now we’ve had the follow-up, Golden Son, and we’re soon (not soon enough!) about to get the final book in the trilogy, Morning Star. Hodderscape have organised a Red Rising Readalong in the run-up to Morning Star, and this week we’re looking at the first section of the book, Slave.
By the way, if you’ve not read Red Rising yet, go buy it! You’re in for a treat. Get hold of Golden Son whilst you’re there – I guarantee you’ll want to read book 2 immediately! And, lucky you, you won’t have as long to wait for Morning Star. Suffice it to say that Golden Son has an ending which will leave you open-mouthed and desperate to find out what happens next…
Slave takes up the first fifty-or-so pages of Red Rising, and here we meet Darrow, a sixteen year old Helldiver on Mars, one of a group of Reds who work below surface mining Helium-3 as part of a terraforming mission to one day make Mars habitable for the people of Earth and Luna. The Reds are the lowest of the low in a rainbow hierarchy where each ‘colour’ has its own place in the world, topped off by the imperious, godlike Golds.
“You and I are Gold. We are the end of the evolutionary line. We tower above the flesh heap of man, shepherding the lesser Colors.”
Within Slave we’re introduced to Darrow and his family, his fellow miners, his clan as they battle to win the Laurel, a prize of greater food and other rations, bestowed on the clan which mines the biggest load of Helium-3 gas. Following a daring adventure, Darrow knows that he’s won the Laurel for his clan, but it’s cruelly snatched away and given to a rival clan instead…
The first 50 pages of Red Rising are astonishingly good, deftly drawing you into the dusty, dangerous world of the miners and the daring exploits of Darrow the Helldiver. You can almost feel the burn of the drill, the danger of the pitvipers and the dust which permeates the network of caverns below Mars. Pierce Brown weaves the characters together elegantly, showing how Darrow and his wife Eo survive and thrive amongst the backdrop of a constant struggle for food and survival.
And we’re not in the typical YA trope of a love triangle here, though, this being more the love story of Darrow and Eo. I’d be tempted to compare it to the first ten minutes of Up for the dramatic buildup and heartbreaking event which drives the rest of the story. Suffice it to say that by the end of Slave, Darrow is very, very angry…
“But I am no Gold. I am a Red.
He thinks men like me weak. He thinks me dumb, feeble, subhuman. I was not raised in palaces. I did not ride horses through meadows and eat meals of hummingbird tongues. I was forged in the bowels of this hard world. Sharpened by hate. Strenghtened by love.
He is wrong.
None of them will survive.”
I really hope you get a copy of Red Rising. It’s a fantastic book. Then you can join in the readalong!
And if you’ve already read it, what did you think of the opening?