My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Warning: There may be some minor spoilers in this review.
Darrow is a Red, the lowest caste in a color-coded Martian system. He is a miner, a laborer who has been told his entire life that he and his fellow Reds toil to make the surface of Mars a livable place for all the castes. And he’s fine with his life- he has his work, which he believes in. He has the love of his life, and his family, and friends. He believes things are as he has been taught. Until he finds out differently. The Golds have lied. The surface of Mars was conquered long ago, and what Darrow and his fellow Reds are doing is basically slave labor to support the extravagant lifestyle of the upper castes. When rebellion touches his world in a very personal way, Darrow agrees to go through a transformation process that will allow him to infiltrate Gold society and help bring about a revolution. If he survives the brutal selection process at the Institute.
It wasn’t a bad book. It had an interesting concept and a timely message about class, politics, and inequality. It was just slow and cumbersome to read. And confusing. Brown doesn’t waste time explaining a lot. He lets the story do that on its own terms, which should be good because it should lose a lot of the infodump process that can pull down other stories. But the problem here is that he does throw it all at the reader at once. Terminology, machinery, society, history- it all flies at you without taking a breath and can get you lost in a sea of “I don’t know what any of this means!” It is all explained eventually but there is a large part of the story that is just confusing.
The worldbuilding is one of the strong points, though. It is thorough and complex. This future world is layered and interesting. The background is part of the story rather than a flashback or history lesson. You are immersed in the world of the miners from the start, and later, in the sometimes fatal test that weeds out the best of the best Golds to become the leaders of the world. It fits well, and even the somewhat cavalier attitude toward the deaths of the contenders at the Institute is explained in a way that fits the story’s aims. Darrow’s transformation from Red to Gold is harrowing in its own right because this is not the usual just clean him up, get him some new clothes, and teach him about Gold society. It’s physical and painful. His trials at the Institute are vicious and difficult.
It should have been a really good book with all of that. It was just too much. The message of inequality is good and woven into the fabric of the story. You see injustice, betrayal, and feel the need Darrow has to make things right. But the plot drags far too much, and the message can get buried under the onslaught of terms and ideas that aren’t explained soon enough. It gets very confusing in spots because there is so much to take in. It wasn’t a bad book. It had some very good parts. I thought it just tried a little too hard and that made it difficult to finish.
View all my reviews
Coming in May 2022
“Crossed Wires and Other Very Short Stories”. Twelve Scifi and twelve fantasy short stories that can each be read in minutes
I have written science fiction, fantasy, and urban fantasy stories. There are novels, novellas, and shorter pieces to fit everyone’s reading time. There are even some free stories, both here on the site and in other places. You can go here to find out more about the books I have published. They are available at Amazon, Smashwords, and most ebook retailers. Thank You!