Darrow is a miner who lives below the surface of Mars. He and his people have worked hard for generations to mine the materials needed so that the surface of Mars can one day be habitable by those left on Earth. Or that's what they've been told at least. When his wife is killed as punishment, Darrow is rescued by rebels and shown the truth—not only is the surface of Mars habitable, people have been living up there for generations while those below continue to slave away for them in ignorance. Now, Darrow wants revenge by rising to the top of their society and destroying it from the inside. But to succeed, Darrow must excel in their school where only the best get in.
Quite a few of the recent dystopians I've read have left me scratching my head trying to figure out how the world works or how things came to be. That's not the case with this book. It's easy to see how this situation came to be and how it is maintained. It's hard to complain about a situation when everything is a lie and you're constantly being played against similarly oppressed groups.
I loved the plotting of the rebels and how it's long-term. A lot of this book is them preparing Darrow and then putting him in the right position where he then has to work to maneuver himself into a good position in society so that he can gain the power to effect change. And we get even more plotting when we get in the school. The school is basically a giant battlefield and the students are at war. I really love clever plans, so I loved just how much plotting went on throughout the book.
The characters were great. I found myself getting attached to quite a few very quickly, even ones that I didn't like when they were first introduced. Darrow in particular was someone I could really understand and empathize with, which is very often not the case with dystopians.
My one big complaint was the fridging of Eo to motivate Darrow into action. Eo, Darrow's wife, was the one at the beginning who had the rebellious ideas, while Darrow was the one who was content staying with the system, despite some frustration. It's annoying to see a woman's death being used to motivate the man into becoming a hero, which is really common in hero's backstories. The woman's biggest contribution to a hero is to die prettily to motivate him. Luckily, there were quite a few awesome women later in the book, but Eo's death was still a bit annoying because it's used so often.
Despite that, I did love Red Rising.