What I liked.
A visionary future with evolved humans creating civilzations on planets and moons in Earth’s solar system. A caste based class system of colored humans. The Gold class reigns at the top with intellect, fear, dominance, physical force, technology, and deception. The Red class populates the bottom with massive slave labor that sustains the wealth and power of the society. In between these two classes lies a myriad of colors whose genetic disposition and engineering match their respective roles in the hierarchy, from soldiers to law enforcers, entertainers, etc. This is a fairly well described and detailed conglomerate.
Within the grander tale are individual stories about well developed characters who struggle with the same issues we humans have for generations; love, hate, purpose, honor, dignity, pride, trust, selfish verses selfless, mercy, family, friendship. This is a shortlist. Not a simple story here.
The drama is engrossing, the characters are inspiring, their plights compelling. This book entertains on every level. It gives visceral justified violence while decrying the consequences to both the victors and the vanquished. It debates the alternatives with readers sharing the anguish inside conflicted protagonists. It gives, and it takes away. The passion runs high throughout the story and there are no lulls. The flawed main character Darrow is not your stereotypical reluctant hero. He is just a bit more than the everyman in us. We recognize his self doubts, his lack of ambition, his fear. We see him in all his human frailty accompanied by his unlimited potential.
Along Darrow’s journey we meet many a villain, those whom we at first classify and assume have but one dimension. When our first shallow impressions prove wrong, we are forced to rethink people we wrote off as wrong headed bad guys/girls. It is at this point when you can really begin to appreciate what Red Rising offers.
As a first book in a trilogy, there is payoff on every level. The climax is rewarding. The creation of a desire to read more is strong. The expectation that you will not be disappointed is high.
What I didn’t like.
The story begins slowly, without much buildup. The science fiction has some nice twists of future and near future technologies, particularly bioengineering. The depth of the technological descriptions are, shall I say, Star Wars light. I had an off and on again struggle with how some aspects of human history and development are abandoned at the expense of others. The strong storytelling overshadows various intermittent flaws.
What you should know.
This is one of the most gender balanced fiction offerings you will find. Women and men are intellectually and physically parallel. They are evenly represented in the telling. You can have Game of Thrones. I’ll take my political intrigue with fancy weaponry and high tech gadgets any day over the fantasy of magic. And horses too!
Recommendation: Must Read