Red Rising Trilogy (Pierce Brown, 2014 – 2016) – Lowborn miner Darrow infiltrates the ranks of the elite Golds to bring down a class system that thrives on oppression.
An intergalactic war of epic proportions marks the birth of a compelling young hero on terraformed Mars.
Darrow is a Red, the lowest caste in a colour-coded society. The young Helldiver mines the surface of Mars, content in building a better world for future generations. Then, the truth hits. Humanity has long terraformed the planets. Reds like him are but slaves to the decadent ruling class of Gold.
Only with tragedy is he bestowed a fighting chance. The Sons of Ares, a resistance group, conscripts Darrow into their mission – to impersonate a Gold in the Elite institute and bring down the system from within.
Science fiction at its best, Pierce Brown has built a deeply immersive world of scale, spanning across the galaxy. Diversity is not just in the human race but in distinct aberrant beings, built to their varying upbringing. Even the planets are endowed with individuality. Each caste takes up their own slang, bound to slip into the daily vernacular of Howlers like us.
They pushed and pushed for so long. They knew I was something dangerous, something different. Sooner or later, they had to know I would snap and come to cut them down. Or perhaps they think I’m still a child. The fools. Alexander was a child when he ruined his first nation.
Howlers are of course, the namesake for Brown’s legion of fans. It is also the name of Darrow’s eventual allies, a charismatic motley crew of feral courage and moral grayness. Layered characterisation sees such interesting personalities evolve – through the challenges they meet and the truths they face.
Unfortunately, most female characters are poorly developed. Some lose their purpose midway, playing mere love interests. Others sacrifice to motivate Darrow, whose Gary Stu accusations are not unjustified.
For one, Darrow seems to pick up knowledge quicker than his isolated upbringing allows. Carving also seems too convenient a plot device. This refers to the surgical procedure that enhances or fully restores the human body, keeping Darrow mostly in top form.
Still, excitement abounds in Golden Son, when the Resistance truly begins. The newly forged armies reach a nerve-wracking dead heat. Allegiance threatens to shift. With friendships gained under the guise of a Gold, Darrow has himself an alliance on the edge. In this perfect middle novel, a tightening pace teases a white knuckle climax.
Everything is cracked, everything is stained except the fragile moments that hang crystalline in time and make life worth living.
Simply by contrast, Morning Star marks a weaker follow-up, where unnaturally theatrical monologues double in numbers. Nonetheless, it remains a solid and emotive finale, which will please any fan of epic space battles.
In this war of scale and consequence, the trilogy impresses most in how it never sidesteps difficult sacrifices and necessary violence. Its grandeur perfect for the cinema, the movie adaptations will definitely be something to look forward to.