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Red Rising    by Pierce Brown order for
Red Rising
by Pierce Brown
Order:  USA  Can
Del Rey, 2014 (2014)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Red Rising, an awesome debut from Pierce Brown, has been compared to Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game and Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games (also to Lord of the Flies and the Harry Potter books). I'd throw in Spartacus as well.

The Reds are slaves in a future Mars. Impoverished and with minimal food and medical supplies, they do dangerous work as miners below the surface. But they are unaware that they are enslaved, having been conditioned to believe that the sacrifices they and their families have made for generations will give their descendants access to a terraformed surface. Little do they know that higher castes (Red, Orange, Gray up to Gold) already inhabit the surface, and that the lowest of the low above them enjoy lives they would deem luxurious.

Darrow is a young Red, a skilled Helldiver who drills the deep tunnels, at constant risk to his life. He watched his father hang when he was a child for a peaceful protest. His drunken uncle Narol taught him all he knows. But Darrow believes the lie and is content in his work and his recent marriage to his childhood sweetheart Eo, until everything suddenly changes. After Darrow and Eo are caught in a forbidden venture, they are publicly flogged. Then Eo, who has told Darrow she lives for the dream that her children will be born free, sings the forbidden song, and sets Darrow on a new course that will change worlds.

With the aid of a resistance group, the Sons of Ares, Darrow undergoes agonizing surgeries to turn him into a Gold. He's tutored in high caste behavior and entered into the Institute, from which young Golds emerge as Peerless Scarred (their futures assured), Graduates or Shamed. After a horrific test (the Passage) culls their numbers, the young Golds divide into twelve warring Houses, each with different resources and styles, in a remote valley. Darrow is in House Mars. The goal is to become Primus (leader) of the winning house. Darrow is determined to succeed, in order to gain power, to aid the resistance and free his own Reds.

In the subsequent terrible conflicts, within and between Houses, Darrow learns a great deal about himself and about leadership. He makes and loses friends. He also discovers that the higher castes are are much subject to lies and manipulation as the Reds, and that not all Golds are his enemies and not all Reds his equals. He allies with Mustang of House Minerva in order to take on the Gold who has been set up to win, the Jackal who is the ArchGovernor's son. But Mustang keeps her own secrets.

Red Rising is a stunning opening barrage to what looks like a spectacular, action-packed new series. It ends with Darrow making a deal with his personal devil, 'in hopes of one day rising to freedom.' Don't miss this exceptional story.

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