Red Rising – Pierce Brown

“I would have lived in peace. But my enemies brought me war.”

Hunger Games meets Ender’s Game, I’d heard. And while yes, that is very true, it doesn’t begin to capture how enthralling I found this book.

Far into the future, mankind needs to spread out into the rest of the solar system. But our neighbouring planets (and their moons) are inhospitable places. Generations of toil will be required to terraform Mars for human habitation. Generations of Darrow’s family, toiling away beneath the surface, living short, hard lives of dangerous, unrewarded work for the good of all mankind.

But there are others. Darrow’s ‘Reds’, the lowest caste, are lorded over by the other colours, all of whom bow to the superior Golds. But when a betrayal of such enormous scope threatens to crush Darrow’s world, he discovers that the Golds themselves are not the gods they make themselves out to be – and that the fight to rule their society begins with their children, sent into a combat arena to suffer horrors that make the Hunger Games look positively sane in comparison.

The phrase ‘couldn’t put this book down’ is vastly overused, but this novel actually robbed me of sleep – I had to practically drag it out of my own hands to turn the light off, hours past bedtime! I had to know who was going to betray who, how far our hero would be pushed (and push back), and just how this story was going to unravel.

It’s all so very bloody and brutal – YA, really?! – and yet couching it in terms of Greco-Roman mythology throws us back to times this would be ‘normal’ – although it’s clearly not, especially when we’re reminded again that these are teenagers (thankfully not the whiny, angsty kind!), while the adults sit observing like the gods from Olympus, pushing them around like chess pieces. Terrible – and compelling!

I loved the world that’s been built here, the myriad elements, the darkness masquerading as progress. And I loved the contrast between the characters – the have and have nots, the differing attitudes to privations that brings, and the Lord of the Flies-esque descent of some when all the rules are removed.

I’m already looking forward to a reread – I want to dissect this novel and its five parts. But while the tale that we are immersed in from part II/III is rounded off, the wider story is left on something of a cliffhanger – thank goodness the sequels are already available!

Kindle: 401 pages / 5 parts / 44 chapters
First published: 2015
Series: Red Rising book 1/3
Read from 20-28th February 2016

My rating: 8.5/10

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