by Pierce Brown3 out of 5
"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, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.
Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.
But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. 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 sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity's overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society's ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies... even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.
Darrow has a hard life, mining the depths of Mars, but he knows the score. He is sacrificing his short life, so his descendants can live in glory, when their hard work finally makes Mars inhabitable.
Unfortunately, that is all a lie.
I received a free copy from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
I was really looking forward to this one, a dystopian setting on another world; the lower caste ignorant of the fact they are slaves; the golds living in luxury and excess...
But, to be honest, I wasn't particularly enamoured with it.
It is a well-written story, following Darrow, the best Helldiver (dangerous, deep-core miner) in his sector. He wants to prove that his hard work will win him and his wife extra rations, but it turns out that the people in charge have no intention of following through on their promised rewards.
This all pales in comparison, when Darrow's young wife is killed for a non-offence; Darrow is dragged into the company of rebels; and discovers that his whole life is a lie.
The surface of Mars has been colonised for centuries, and people are living in luxuries created by the slave labour of Darrow's kin.
Darrow now has the chance to change his fate, undergoing serious surgery and alterations, to become a Gold. His new aim: to break the system from within.
The quickest way for him to earn a place amongst the top Golds, he has to go through a series of tests with other young men and women.
Once he has proved himself ridiculously intelligent, and that he's willing to kill to proceed, Darrow is thrown into a simulated battlefield, where the dangers are very real.
It's really hard to put into words why I didn't get on with this book - on paper, it should have been a perfect match.
I think I found it hard to root for Darrow (except for when his wife died). He's just an average Red. Except he isn't. He's super-smart, and has ridiculous reflexes, which make him the best of the miners. After his Gold-upgrade, this is boosted further, and he is perfect. Darrow is the fastest, the smartest, the handsomest.
He's a tool for the rebels, and never had any ambition for more than a full stomach and a happy family; but suddenly he's the obvious leader that (most) Golds flock to. He has tactical savvy and does too well a this simulation.
I also found the story slow-paced for the most part. The last third picks up the pace, but everything else felt too steady. I wanted to skim the never-ending contemplation and training, as Darrow meekly becomes a honed weapon for the Reds.
Overall, I still liked the book, and I would be interested in seeing where this story leads.