How many times can bestselling dystopias have plots about a dictatorial, caste-like society in which a group of teens are forced into a contained area where they must fight and kill each other as a prelude to overthrowing the harsh regime? Apparently a lot. Most similar to The Hunger Games, Pierce Brown’s Red Rising also shares major plot arcs with The Maze Runner, Divergent, and the grandmother of the them all, The Giver.
for its part, is set on Mars hundreds of years in the future in a society divided into color-coded castes with Reds at the bottom and Golds at the top. One Red, the main character Darrow, is physically transformed into a Gold to infiltrate and subvert the status quo. He then enters a military prep school for Golds who are divided into armies. The victorious army will enjoy power, position, and prestige after the “school” year ends.
Why, I wonder, are such novels so popular? Do most teens feel they are locked into a future over which they have little control? In our society is violence so much the go-to solution that negotiation and persuasion or even charm are irrelevant or nonexistent? Do we all long for judgment to fall on those who perpetrate evil? Or do such novels simply name (and so help us have a sense of control over) our fears?
What the heroes in all these novels show is that our choices matter, that we can overcome our circumstances and make a difference. Life is harsh, but we can persevere and surmount the challenges we face. The outcome is hope, though the route is sometimes vicious and cruel.
benefit of listening to the recording of Red Rising was hearing the haunting “Song of Persephone” which plays a central role in the plot. This gentle but powerful lament hammers home the cries of a whole people in the midst of their oppression and suffering. Perhaps the next installments in Brown’s series will tell a different tale, yet for now, in this song, “down in the vale, [we] hear the reaper swing” its scythe of judgment on his enemies. In another valley of death, however, a shepherd with different weapons, a rod and staff, protect his flock from foes.
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