Man cannot be freed by the same injustice that enslaved it.
I'm going to apologize in advance because this will probably get longer than I intend it to be. There's just… too many thoughts, too much caffeine.
Also kids, go to your room. The grown-ups need to talk about grown up stuff.
And ladies, leave your ovaries at the door. There'll be none of that exploding silliness allowed beyond this point. No panties will go dropping, melting or sizzling either.
I think I can fault Red Rising for a lot of things (and I shall get to that shortly) but creativity certainly isn't one of them. Remember that scene from The Matrix? With spoonboy?
Bend the spoon you say? There is no spoon you say?
This is taking the spoon and stabbing that Buddhist kid on the ear. Several times.
This book makes no apologies, bends a lot of rules and pushes boundaries you never thought were there. The mix of anarchy and philosophy in this story, requires a good balance of elegance and grit, a certain panache in the delivery that was executed brilliantly in some areas but faltered in others (mostly at the beginning). Unavoidable seeing as how ambitious Darrow's story is, but I was swiping at my tablet screen beyond the last page, hoping for a peek at the next book so I guess the goods outweighed the bads.
Red Rising tells the story of Darrow a sixteen year-old Helldiver from Mars. He, his wife and his family lives in the subterranean levels of the red planet, at a time when civilization has resorted to stratify people into a color-coded caste system: Golds, Silvers, Blues, Coppers, Pinks, Greens and so on. Each caste exists to serve a function in The Society, Darrow is a Red. They are the slaves tasked to mine Helium-3 from the dangerous pits of Mars, a chemical needed to terraform planets and moons. They live in noble deprivation, led to believe that they are mankind's great heroes, their sacrifices paving the way for greater human glory and purpose. Darrow believes in that reality, he maybe the best worker bee in the hive, but that's all he ever aspires to be.
Until the day he didn't. Then the blinders are lifted and the horrible lie and injustice done to his people by the ruling Golds are revealed. From then on, Darrow stops from being the worker bee and become the instrument of a revolution. He is carved, sharpened and polished into a weapon with the sole task to destroy The Society, not from the inside… but from the top.
Okay all of that happened, like in the first 10-15% of this book and I'm thinking, "Oh, this is going to be like a fusion of Elysium and Gattaca." Then I read further on and I think, "Oh, it's like The Matrix!" (there's a red pill/blue pill moment somewhere there). Then I got to the part where the master plan gets to be revealed and I'm thinking, "Oh, The Institute is like Hogwarts! Joy!" Then The Passage happened.
Then I just stopped.
It's Survival of the Fittest of the Fittest of the Fittest ad nauseam, hazily incorporating some Roman and Greek mythology themes. Somewhat.
You know The War Games in Jellicoe? It's exactly like that.
On steroids. And crack.
What made this story fascinating for me is the lack of any good or evil between the Reds and the Golds. There is only power: who wields it, how they wield it and what happens to those who get the brunt of it. And I find it very peculiar how I lost my bearings for a while, deep into the story. Understanding and being sympathetic to the plight of these perfect Golds and the heavy burden perfection casts upon their shoulders. It's really not an easy task to be at the top of the food chain, it should be a more difficult truth to emphasize with but there were moments in the story that I truly lost sight of the bigger picture and just felt for characters like Servo and "PAX AU TELAMANUS! PAX AU TELAMANUS!" (Sidenote: Hodor!)
But at the same time, Darrow is placed in an impossible situation where he'd seemingly beat the odds only to lose against it in the next breath then overcome it again in the next. And in those moments that he learns from the enemy, we get schooled in the art of war and winning them. About honor, loyalty and pride. It was a dizzying dance of wits and cunning, against seeming allies, supposed mentors and friends. Darrow with the Golds, the most superior beings in the solar system, demigods by any standard in a petri dish of reality and human nature? It just makes something in your heart burn, it calls to that part of you that cries and soars every time Rocky Balboa wins. But at the same time, I can't bring myself to hate these evil superbeings.
Because I can't really find myself allying with Darrow's Dancing Dynasty thus far. I think its the dancing. There's true horror in how these people are made to live and Darrow's pain as he buries his wife after having to pull her feet as she hangs cannot be made any more palpable than here. And I know it should be a heartbreaking reflection on their way of coping but damn if that didn't remind of Lord of the Dance.
The dancing and that bloodydamn red headband? Just… no.
There was a bit of expected infodump scattered here and there but my biggest gripe is the lack of any perceivable depth in Eo's character. While I thoroughly enjoyed The Institute scenes, I felt Eo, being the emotional pulse of Darrow's anguish and pain, was severely compromised early in the book. I hardly know her and yet there's all this weight that her memory throws around all throughout the story. She was an annoying element, worse because she's dead and so no one can kill her again (crazy plot twist notwithstanding).
This read a lot like an adult sci-fi fiction story and I'm actually confused why Darrow even needs to be sixteen-eighteen here. It was something that I continually need to remind myself throughout. Also was I the only one who got serious, mad homoerotic vibes from everyone? I mean
- ✢ I am a naked child slapping at another naked child in a cold room.
- ✢ We're made of fire and ice - though I am not sure which of us is fire and which is ice.
- ✢ Like he'd kill something without even tensing his muscles. Or maybe it's because I can imagine him coiling up on a couch and LICKING himself clean.
And this is told solely from Darrow's POV. WHY ARE THESE BOYS NOT KISSING EACH OTHER?!?!?! SERIOUSLIES?! I blame Spartacus and Clueless (for making me aware of Spartacus).
This ended very clean, I liked the loose ends that it left me with. It dragged me from one screaming WTF moment to another and ended with a trembling whisper of WTF. And it's quite a challenge for anyone to not wait for the next book with heavy anticipation. I have theories that I shall hold secret and close to my heart, I like getting proven wrong, but I like getting proven right better.
I am the spark that will set the worlds afire. I am the hammer that cracks the chains.