Red Rising by Pierce Brown

red-risingBibliographic Information:

  • Publisher, Date: Del Rey, 2014
  • Edition: First
  • Description: 382 pages : maps ; 25 cm
  • Interest Level:  YA
  • Summary: Darrow is a miner and a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he digs all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of the planet livable for future generations. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better future for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Darrow and Reds like him are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow joins a resistance group in order to infiltrate the ruling class and destroy society from within. He will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies . . . even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.  Retrieved from

  • ISBN:  978-0-345-53978-6
  • Subjects:
    • Space Travel/ Colonization – Fiction
    • Caste systems – Fiction
    • Slavery – Fiction
    • Dystopian – Fiction
    • Resistance to government – Fiction

Reader’s Annotation: When I lost Eo, I lost my soul.  Why shouldn’t I take from them everything they took me?

Book Trailer(s):

Plot Summary (150-200): “’I live for the dream that my children will be born free,’ she says. ‘That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.’

‘I live for you’, I say sadly.

Eo kisses my cheek. ‘Then you must live for more.’”

Darrow is a Red in a society genetically manipulated to form groups designated to work in very specific areas of society.  Reds are the lowest of the groups and spend their entire lives in underground communities mining materials for the other groups to use to colonize Mars.  What they don’t know is that the colonization was completed many generations earlier and that their labors are going to support a corrupt system that treats them as slaves and denies them the benefits of their work.  Any Red to challenges the established order or commits even the smallest offences runs the risk of execution and Darrow loses his much loved young, pregnant wife to just such an offence.  Following her death, Darrow is drawn into a wild scheme to bring about revolution and justice for all the Reds and the other lower caste groups by infiltrating the elite ruling class of the Golds.  He undergoes genetic and physical alteration as well as months of training so that he can pass for a Gold and compete with other young Golds at the Institute where they will fight against each other to gain positions of power in the various ruling houses.  Darrow must do more than change his appearance to succeed; he must also reject the very values that lead him to join the revolution.  To destroy the Golds, he must become what he hates.

Critical Evaluation:  Dystopian stories are all the rage currently in YA literature, and Red Rising is an excellent example of one.  While it is very violent and brutal, the situation the characters exist in is very violent and brutal.  The primary characters themselves are well written.  It would have been easy for the author to make all the Gold’s monsters and all the Revolutionaries, saints but he doesn’t.  A critical part of the story is the growing conflict the main character feels about the Gold’s he becomes acquainted with and learns to care for.  How can he do what he must when he begins to see them as more than the killers he believed them to be?

The overall society, especially for the Golds, seems based on that of Ancient Sparta.  Strength and a willingness to fight and kill for what they want is the prime characteristic of the top level of the Martian society.  They are warriors and have little regard for anyone, male or female, who can’t live up to the standard that they have created.  Of all the dystopian stories I have read, I believe this one does the best job of creating a society that is at once very human and at the same time a work of science fiction.  The society created to live on Mars is the product of genetic manipulation by corporate and political interests on Earth anxious to capitalize on the natural resources available there and in space.  Of course, things didn’t work out as planned and a powerful new society was created.  This is one of the things I liked about the book because good science fiction should have a message and the messages found in this book are profound regarding mankind’s propensity for making really stupid mistake in the name of profit.

Author’s Brief Bio:  Pierce Brown spent his childhood building forts and setting traps for cousins in the woods of six states and the deserts of two. Graduating from college in 2010, he fancied the idea of continuing his studies at Hogwarts. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a magical bone in his body. So while trying to make it as a writer, he worked as a manager of social media at a startup tech company, toiled as a peon on the Disney lot at ABC Studios, did his time as an NBC page, and gave sleep deprivation a new meaning during his stint as an aide on a U.S. Senate campaign. Now he lives Los Angeles, where he scribbles tales of spaceships, wizards, ghouls, and most things old or bizarre.

Genre Designation: Science Fiction

Possible Curriculum Links:

  • Space Travel and Colonization
  • Political Science
  • Sociology
  • Biology / Evolution

Book Talk Ideas:  Is it ever okay to do bad things for good reasons?

Materials Relating to Potential Challenges:


Why this book was selected.  After reading the book jacket I though it sounded like an interesting read and a change from the female driven books that most dystopian stories.


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