Red Rising is set in the far future, when humanity has colonized the solar system. In this future, roles in society are strictly enforced and determined by what “color” you are born into. Darrow lives underground with the Reds, people given the task of mining for helium-3, a resource humanity needs to terraform Mars and other moons and planets. It’s a tough and dangerous job and a bleak lifestyle of constant poverty and hunger. Like most of the Reds, Darrow believes in the delusional propaganda that he is doing hard work so that future generations of humanity can live on Mars. He doesn’t think beyond how to survive each day. But, when tragedy suddenly strikes in his life, he loses what precious little happiness he has tried so hard to protect. Worst yet is the glimpse of the truth that follows: that his life and the life of all the Reds—their blood and sweat and tears and sacrifice—is all for a lie. A lie told by the hidden upper rungs of society in order to keep the Reds as willing slaves for the rest of humanity. With eyes now opened to the truth, Darrow’s life becomes more than just about survival—it becomes about vengeance. And justice.
SPOILERS GALORE BELOW!
Darrow’s life is brutal and primitive and accepting. Every day is a toil to meet the daily quota so that the overseers will award them enough food and basic necessities to survive the month. Every day the Reds have to step carefully, obeying the rules set by their overseers or the penalty is whipping—or worst, death by hanging. And the gravity on Mars is too low for hanging to be a quick death. But do the Reds protest? No. Those like Darrow’s Father who did protest were rid of long ago, and the rest of the Reds are too busy squabbling against each other or just barely surviving to see that their true enemy lies above-ground. The whole powerful-rungs-of-society-seeking-to-subdue-the-lower-rungs-with-internal-distractions-so-they-won’t-realize-the-true-depth-of-their-oppression certainly stirs up the rebellious spirit in me.
Eo, Darrow’s wife, definitely can’t stand it anymore. She is a dreamer—one of the few who still has the energy to believe that the Reds deserve better. She married Darrow because even though he is careful not to nurture it, she sees that in his heart he believes in a better life, too. And she sees that he has that special quality of leadership that the Reds are lacking. Leadership that will force the Reds to open their eyes to a greater goal than just day-to-day survival. I like that Eo thought of the bigger picture, but just like that intensity of spirit is necessary to spur change, that same intensity scares me. I was not surprised that Eo’s fate was a quick martyr’s burn-out. She believed so hard in her vision that even her own life didn’t matter. I got the sense that she wanted to die for the cause. In fact, I almost got the feeling that instead of fighting to live, she gave up her life so that Darrow could wake up and start taking serious action. This is great and all, but in order for the rebellion to continue, people are needed to lead. Her brand of extreme protest felt a bit…wasteful. All that spirit lost…
But apparently Eo’s sacrifice is for naught because now, Darrow is marching head first for the gallows, too. CORRECTION – the first section of the book ends with Darrow hanging.
Of course, there’s still 75% of the book left to go so I know there’s going to be some trickery and that Darrow’s more likely than not, going to survive the hanging.
But wow, what an ending for the first section!
So far, Red Rising is really depressing me. I feel exactly like the Reds—cowed by the powers above. I don’t even feel any rage for Eo’s death or Darrow’s “death”. I just feel empty. The bleakness is intense.
I hope things get better.