Red Rising Summary

Pierce Brown

Red Rising

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Red Rising Summary

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Red Rising is the first novel of a science fiction trilogy by Pierce Brown published in 2014.The story takes place on a future colony on Mars and follows a lowly minor, Darrow, as he moves up through the elite ranks of the Golds.

Seven hundred years ago, humankind colonized other planets. In the subsequent years, a rigid class system has emerged based on color, where the physically superior “Golds” rule at the top with iron might. The main character, Darrow, is a “Red,” a class of worker at the bottom that slaves below the surface in the mines.

Darrow and his wife, Eo, are caught in a forbidden area, and she is whipped for her crime.She sings a forbidden folk song as she is being arrested in protest of their treatment, and she is hanged. Darrow cuts down her body and buries it, a crime for which he is also hanged. When he awakens and finds that he is not dead, the trajectory of his life changes.

Darrow has been taken by the Sons of Ares, a terrorist group fighting against the tyrannical rule of the Golds. They have a video of Eo’s song and execution and are using it as a rallying cry for their cause. They ask Darrow to join them; he does when they reveal that Mars was terraformed centuries ago and the “lowcolors” have been tricked into subjugation.

They decide to transform Darrow into a Gold to infiltrate their ranks. They change his appearance through a series of painful surgeries and treatments. With his new identity, the Golds accept him into the Golds’ Institute where he makes friends with Cassius au Bellona and makes an enemy of the arrogant Antonia au Severus. He’s chosen for House Mars and must complete the Passage. The Golds are divided in half and must fight to the death to ensure that the strongest make it through.

Darrow must kill Cassius’s brother to survive, but Cassius does not know who killed him. Each house is then assigned a fortress to defend with the goal that all houses will destroy each other until only the strongest remains. Darrow enlists help from House Minerva and a woman he met when he first arrived whom he named “Mustang.” She helps, but he takes over her fortress as well, narrowly allowing her to escape.

Before she escapes, she reveals “The Jackal,” the leader of House Pluto who is terrorizing the other houses. One of his messengers reveals to Cassius that it was Darrow who killed his brother. He challenges Darrow to a dual and leaves him wounded in the snow.

Mustang finds him and nurses him back to health. They develop romantic feelings and flee to avoid capture by Cassius who is now the head of House Mars. As each house is defeated, the people of the house are enslaved to their conquerors. Darrow raises an army of “Oathbreakers,” slaves who have refused to swear their allegiance.To ensure their loyalty, he takes responsibility for them and asks them to join him rather than be enslaved by him.

He takes over several of the other houses and enslaves the members until they can prove their loyalty using the same tactics he used with the Oathbreakers. He finds that the other houses have been conspiring with the Jackal to ensure that he will not have victory. He discovers that the Jackal is Adrius, son of ArchGovernor Augustus. He exposes a prisoner known as Lucian as the Jackal in disguise. He impales his hand, but the Jackal slices it off and escapes.

He sends Mustang after him but discovers she is his twin sister. He storms the floating palace of the Proctors of the houses and subdues all the remaining houses. He expects Mustang to betray him, but she instead returns with her brother. Darrow is declared the victor. He accepts the ArchGovernor’s position as a lancer knowing that he will be able to acquire the power needed to destroy the Golds once and for all.

Key themes of the book are the inherent dehumanization in rigid class systems and the dystopian vision of the future of humankind. We have long believed our flight into space would herald a new golden age for humanity, but in the novel, the same systems of inequality have followed us.

The Golds have tricked the Reds into believing that their hard work, poverty, and suffering are the highest honor in the name of recreating the red planet into a beautiful paradise. This is a lie meant only to keep them toiling under the surface and compliant as a slave class. When Darrow finds out, he joins a league of people seeking to overthrow the tyrannical rule of the Golds.

Darrow also learns the danger of losing who you are in pursuit of a cause. Throughout the novel, we find that his physical transformation affects whom he is inside. He intends to infiltrate the Golds, but he finds allies there and some friends instead of simple enemies. He loses himself in their culture of subjugation, and only when he remembers that all people are equal is he able to amass the followers and might to overthrow the rest of the houses.

The novel is a dystopian look at class struggle set in a space opera genre. We are introduced to the bloody, violent struggles of class and the search for equality for all people. Red Rising is the set up for the rest of the struggle in the final parts of the trilogy.