Just up front, there will be some minor plot spoilers in this review, but most of it is also revealed in the official synopsis of the book from the publisher. Any details of the plot I give, only cover the first third or so of the book. Still, if you prefer to go in completely cold, and have managed to stay ignorant of the premise of a book published several years ago, you may want to skip this review and just take my word for it that it’s very good. Brutal and not really your run of the mill YA dystopian, but very good indeed.
Ok, if you’re still reading, I’m assuming your fine with knowing the bare bones of the plot. Darrow works deep under the surface of Mars, mining for precious minerals. He is a Red, one of the pioneers and hard workers sent to Mars, told that their work efforts are crucial to aid in the terraforming of Mars and other planets for those left behind on Earth. Working conditions are extremely tough, hardly anyone lives to a ripe old age. Food is scarce, unless you live in the town that always seems to manage the highest quotas every month. Darrow’s father was publicly executed after he encouraged some other workers to do a pacifist protest against working conditions, so he and the rest of his family have been careful to be model workers. Now Darrow’s young wife Eo has started voicing dissent against the system and Darrow is worried.
When they are caught trespassing in a restricted area, both are sentenced to public flogging, to be broadcast on the video feed all around Mars. The ArchGovernor of Mars, the most powerful man on the planet, just so happens to be visiting as the sentence is to be carried out. Darrow takes his punishment stoically, then is shocked to realise that Eo is going to sacrifice herself to prove a point. Singing one of the songs of rebellion as she is being whipped, Eo is hanged and her death broadcast across the planet. Her last words are to “Break the chains!” Darrow is absolutely crushed and breaks the law by fetching down her dead body from the gallows and burying it somewhere hidden. He too is sentenced to hang, but wakes up after his execution, not dead at all. A resistance group tells him that Eo has become a martyr to their cause and they need Darrow to help them fight.
Quite a lot more on my blog, including my thoughts on fridging and whether Darrow is a Gary Stu.