In the distant future, humanity has colonised much of the solar system, and is split into castes. The highest caste is the Golds – physically perfect, cunning and bred from birth to believe that they are better than all other colours. Served by all the colours, but the lowest of all are the Reds, who toil beneath the surface of Mars. Subject to strict rules, dancing and voicing an opinion is punishable by death, and life expectancy is short.
Darrow is one of the best Helldivers – piloting a craft mining helium-3; one of the most dangerous jobs for a Red. His father is executed for dancing, his own wife hung for singing a forbidden song, and rebelling, is hung himself, but brought back from death to become the ultimate Trojan Horse. Genetically modified to become a Gold, he joins other adolescent Golds in a training camp where they must win games and battles to be given the chance of an apprenticeship with one of the galaxy’s rulers so that he can rise from the inside to defeat the Golds and free the Reds.
Brown writes a compelling story, with well-rounded characters and gripping action. With adolescents pitted against adolescents in increasingly violent games, comparisons to The Hunger Games are inevitable. However, this book should not be judged against another author’s work – Brown’s novel deserves to stand by itself.