The Red Rising trilogy: Is it really the Hunger Games “for adults” and with a male protagonist?

redriThe Red Rising trilogy was recommended to me by my therapist because I started going on about how I like the Hunger Games one day at the end of our session.

Red Rising starts with the main protagonist, Darrow, who lives on Mars. He is a Red and he is basically a slave in underground mines and has never been to the surface, which his people believe is unliveable and that they’re preparing  the planet to be inhabitable for everyone to live on, including other people who are suffering on other planets (oh so noble! *sarcasm*… they were lied to). Apparently, people were genetically modified at some point to be literal colours, like Red, Pink, Gold, Blue and so forth. The colours denote social status. Gold people at the top, Reds at the bottom. And there is no wiggle room; you’re expected to think, behave, work and treat others in a certain way based on your colour and their colour. The social order is really oppressive, and as the series digs in, it becomes apparent how such a restrictive social order is even difficult for those those at the top, the Golds, and deviating can put even them in danger.

When Darrow’s wife protests and shows Darrow the surface, she is put to death, with him along side her. Presumed dead, Darrow is genetically “cut” to look like one of the Golds. With a new identity, he is placed in an elite academy to infiltrate the highest ranks of Gold society. The 17-18 year old teenagers are divided into groups to fight in a Hunger Games-like fight for one group to obtain power over the other. Only if you can survive, that’s ideal. If you die, too bad. Darrow has to be successful in the Gold social order to be able to be able foster an uprising from the inside. Naturally, Darrow triumphs against all odds and is essentially adopted by one of the most powerful families around.

Golden Son and Morning Star see Darrow falling in love with Mustang (also known as Virginia), and dealing with his nemesis, Adrius, who is also Mustang’s twin brother, as well as making peace with the fact that he killed Cassius’s brother, Julian, and Cassius hates him for it. There ends up being a massive war in the galaxy as Darrow and the other rebels fight to overthrow the Golds. Typical of these sorts of series, there is corruption on both sides of the coin. The “good” guys who are trying to overthrow the “bad” guys have more than a few flaws and have to be reminded of their goal and sometimes set people who step out of line back in place.

Unlike books like the Hunger Games, which is tailored to a younger audience, I definitely felt like there was quite a bit larger depiction of violence and honesty about sex in the Red Rising series. In a lot of ways, I feel like not toning down the graphicness made it even more clear how much the characters like Darrow where suffering from things like PTSD.

If you like dystopian future books, these books would be a great choice. 

Title 1) Red Rising
2) Golden Son
3) Morning Star
Author Pierce Brown
Genre(s) Science fiction / Sci fi 
Publisher Del Rey Books
Publication date
January 28, 2014
January 6, 2015
February 9, 2016
Pages 382
464
518
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