5 out of 5 Red Stars
This is one of the best sci fi/dystopian stories I have ever read. Straight up. Perhaps it is because of my own personal failings. I love revenge. I hold a grudge. I love seeing revenge done. And this one. Oh… the raw animal emotions of this book. I felt the blood running down my throat. I felt the gristle and bone and hair of my enemies between my teeth. It was a visceral experience. If you have ever wanted to lay waste to those who oppose you, and do not because of silly social mores…and a complete inability to use any kind of weapon…. you need to read this and live vicariously.
This thing is so amazingly well plotted and is worthy of deep, critical reading. I wish I wasn’t so stupid and knew something about Greet/Roman mythology. Everything went back to that – I mean, it takes place on Mars and the school heads all have names from Greek mythology.
In the future, Earth is dying, and we are colonizing the planets and moons that can be terraformed. A crazy sort of social structure based on color has been designed – sort of like A Brave New World where people are bred for certain jobs. Our main hero Darrow is a red, which is the lowest. He is actually the lowest of the low – a LowRed – which means he works below the surface of the planet on Mars, as a miner. He thinks they are a crucial step in the long term plan of terraforming Mars… however, it’s a lie. Mars is already terraformed. The surface is populated and the whole shebang is run by the cruel Golds. This is made clear to Darrow by the Sons of Ares, a group (freedom fighters in one view, terrorists in another) who want to bring down the Society.
Jumpcut. Stuff happens and our boy, Darrow is set up to infiltrate the Golds Institute, which is where the Gold Peerless are formed. No one knows what goes on inside the school. Here is where I get controversial – of all the books compared to the Hunger Games, that are absolutely nothing like The Hunger Games, this one has some similarities to The Hunger Games. I don’t want to spoil it for you – this comparison IN NO WAY degrades this book. It stands on its own. It has its own twist – the plot in this thing thrums like a heartbeat. The brutality in this is more intense and more real. Our hero is not on a full-tilt journey from nobody to somebody without falling flat on his face several times. Darrow starts out making a lot of mistakes. Then he makes more mistakes. Then he sees what he did wrong and he tries to fix it and he still screws up. And just when you are like YES, DRINK THEIR BLOOD EAT THEIR FLESH it pulls up and you’re like… these are kids. Oh my God what is happening. I am an animal. I have become my enemy. It’s amazing. Because when stuff goes well, you soulpunch the air like a Viking Warrior, screaming for your place among the halls of Valhalla. When in reality you are sitting in your office chair smothering things in nutella while the gods scorn you.
So many characters. It was a cast of thousands, but the author did a great job giving them real personalities. I do wish there was more with Antonia. She’s the only one I felt had a lot of buildup that didn’t have much payoff. I also liked how a lot of people looked to be one way and where totally different. You can’t always trust what you see is happening. The betrayals are fast and sudden. And it’s so amazing to see the Golds strutting around talking about the superiority of their race while the guy who is kickin’ their butts is from the lowest of the low. You also see the inherent flaws in the Gold’s social theories. I mean, they are just tyrants. There is no reason for one part of society to starve and sleep on the floor. But they tell themselves they deserve it because of their breeding. While they scratch each other’s eyes out and plot and cheat, pretending to be noble and above everyone else.
I gotta tell you, in the beginning, I felt like I was being pulled by the nose a little. I knew I was being set up for heartbreak and I was like… hmmm… is this going to pay off or get sappy and give me no payoff? No, it didn’t do that! It gave me sorrow and pain and revenge and goals and friendship and enemies and hatred and bone and gristle between my teeth! It was amazing!!!! All the stars!!!