My rating: 3 of 5 stars
3.5 STARS Oh GOODNESS me. My goodman, this book is equal parts fierce battle school and strategy. It’s so hard to describe what this is technically; yes, it takes place on a futuristic planet Mars with an established half-millennium long hierarchy distinguished by colors. Each person is determined and confined to their ranks by their birth and the proverbial glass ceiling is heavily applied here. Pinks are born as prostitutes and trained in the arts of these services, Silvers only work in the currency field, and the Reds are the manual laborers. These are only a few of the many others that exist. (ROYGBIV should cover it, really.)
We have the typical main character, oppressed but still brilliant and ambitious. The stage is set: we give Darrow a cause to fight for, injustices presented to him and BAM infiltration. The process is predictable but the way the story unfolds is compelling and hard to peel my eyes away from. I wanted to know how something happened even if I knew what would happen. However, the book really wasn’t what I expected. The sales pitch for the book targets the right audience but this was not a science-fiction (well, it sorta is) but rather 75% of the book was spent inside the Institute with all these students battling and pitted against each other. Basically, it was a fat load of war, strategy, and conquer. Darrow’s rebellion for the Reds is nowhere near started. By the end of the book, it’s safe to say that he has accomplished many things and cemented his presence as a leader but the Red Rising Rebellion is not even close to fruition. He hasn’t given off sparks, initiated anarchy, or caused ripples in the lower hierarchy like what Katniss did at the end of The Hunger Games.
The book wasn’t what I expected because the brief book description is semi-misleading. But it’s okay since I ended up enjoying it no matter how much I had to slough through in order to get to the juicy tidbits. It’s not always action-packed as there is lots of planning to be done but it was never boring. The premise of the Institute’s rite of passages bears significant resemblance to Battle Royale. All these gladiator-type death matches and survival of the fittest among youngsters have been reused and recycled so often throughout literature. Of course, it’s hard to be original due to the huge accumulation of ideas and concepts over the centuries in literature. However, it’s good to see that science-fiction still has ample room to grow with new weaponry and armor. (This book can also be classified as the popular sci-fi subgenre Dystopia. However, I still hesitate to use that term because the new crop of dystopian novels have been particularly bad and the good ones are far and few.)
Oh, I really do love a good old vengeance novel fueled with hatred and penance. I just wished there was actual revenge that occurred or collapse of the high class dictators. Nope. Didn’t happen yet. But hopefully it will soon and most likely in the sequel? That’s all I really ask for. I don’t care much about romance and I probably won’t be persuaded to. Besides, in a book filled with so much misdeeds and war-filled themes, it does not fit or leave space for the halfhearted love story subplot. In the end, the author does take care to remind us again that the reason and driving force for Darrow’s dedication and obsession with rebellion is due to his undying love for his wife Eo. And I don’t mind that. It’s sort of sappy but okay, love triumphs all. Whee!