I recently read the Science Fiction trilogy Red Rising Saga by Pierce Brown. Here are my thoughts.
The three books in this trilogy are Red Rising, Golden Son, and Morning Star. I read the first two books back to back over the course of a single weekend. I then had to wait two weeks before I could get the third book from the library. If I’d been able to binge all three books back to back, I likely would have rated them all the same. But with only a two week pause, my enjoyment of the third book dropped a fair amount. I do still like this trilogy overall and would recommend it to science fiction readers.
This series is set on Mars about a thousand years in the future. Clearly, it’s science fiction. But it feels more like dystopian, which is also considered science fiction, but is a distinct subgenre. In this future world, humanity has been broken into a color coted cast system with Reds being the very bottom, and Golds being the very top. Pretty much every color is a slave to the Golds, but Reds are the lowest of the slaves. In the first book, a Red named Darrow is inspired to rebel against the system and undergo extensive plastic surgery to turn himself into a Gold, so he can overthrow the corrupts system from the inside.
Most of Red Rising focuses on Darrow’s time at a school for Golds. I liked this story a lot. The class system was interesting, the politics of the society were interesting, and the school adventure was like nothing I’d ever read. I was hooked by the end of the first book and excited to read the rest of the trilogy.
Both Golden Son and Morning Star focus very heavily on the politics of the society and Darrow fights to change the broken system. They remind me a lot of the later books in the Hunger Games series, which is why I said these books feel like dystopian. I often enjoy political fantasy, but for some reason this political science fiction wasn’t as compelling for me.
I have heard some reviewers claim that they loved books 2 and 3 of this trilogy, but only mildly enjoyed book 1. I felt the opposite. I loved book 1, liked book 2, and only mildly enjoyed book 3.
It’s easy for political speculative fiction to feel like a commentary on current politics. All good speculative fiction should make a reader think not only about the world the author has created, but also the world the reader lives in. This series felt heavy handed in it’s political commentary. My biggest problem with the later books in the series was actually the fact that the political message the author was saying was basically that life is perfect now, we are doing things right now, and the ultimate goal of the future rebels should be to return to the great era of capitalist democracy.
The slave based, highly oppressive, authoritarian government of this future society is definitely a dystopia. But things aren’t perfect now either. Good dystopia makes readers question the status quo and dream of revolution. As much as I loved the beginning of this series, and I really would recommend reading at least book 1, I finished this series feeling like the message was instead to cherish our current society and hold fast to our traditions and belief systems, because things can only get worse.