When I was growing up I remembered an incident when child fell into a well and a major rescue effort was mounted to get her out. Afterward, the child was labeled a ‘hero’ in news reports and interviews and I remember being very annoyed. Falling into a well doesn’t make a child a hero; she didn’t go into the well to save another child. In fact, she had to be rescued. Therefore, the correct word for the girl would be survivor, but for years the media and individuals have been getting this wrong. The office workers who died in 9/11 were mainly victims, the heroes were the ones we have heard about who carried their coworker in a wheelchair down the stairs or the firefighters who ran up those stairs to try to save people knowing the chances were good that they themselves might not live. I think of the passengers on United Flight 93 rolling the service cart up the aisle to ram the cockpit door to try to take control of the plane to prevent it from being used as a weapon like the other flights and save other people. I write these things to let readers of this post know that I deplore hype and the widespread over use and abuse of certain words, words such as hero, grandeur, and epic.
Now that I have said that, you know that I don’t use the term epic lightly when describing Golden Son, the second story in Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy. It’s ironic that I almost didn’t make it through the first few chapters and now I am just chomping at the bit for the next book. What started out as a book about an ordinary boy on a dusty planet has morphed into a story with an epic journey such as The Odyssey, the breadth of characters and world-building as the Lord of the Rings, and the best kind of hero, the kind with a tragic flaw who constantly questions his own morals and mission, yet hasn’t set down his heavy burden.
In the Divergent series people who all started out more alike than different, were guided into different factions, but they still are the same race, the world of Golden Son took a more extreme path. Everyone started out as part of the human race on Earth, even if they were different ethnicities, however through genetic engineering and simple manipulation, the Colors were born. Each color has a specific hierarchy, strength or role to play in the society augmented by technology. The technology has created more than just different races; some like the Obsidians (Black) and the Golds are more like different species. The Obsidians have been molded into weapons, their superior size and stamina kept in check by the fact that they serve as slaves to the Golds, who also are more than men, they have the attributes of super men by virtue of their size, strength, and even intelligence. They are the descendants of the original men from Earth who first conquered other races and nations before conquering new planets.
Darrow is originally from the lowest caste, the Reds, but has been carved into a Gold. He has the harrowing mission of being deep undercover. I am guessing agents who work undercover would agree with this dilemma….how do you build relationships with people you mean to take down? You have to find something to like in them, to be able to bond with them, or they will be suspicious. Yet, you have to maintain a distance, to compartmentalize yourself, in order to keep your sanity and stay focused on your mission. In this second story, after being the Primus at the Institute, Darrow was graduated from the Academy and commands a starship for the Gold who killed his wife. The interesting characters from the first book have returned, along with some new faces who are just as intriguing.
Darrow both rises high and falls low in Golden Son, all while struggling to be the man who will save his people and remake the world at the expense of many innocent lives.