Golden Son is the second book in Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy.
In a futuristic reality, humans have spanned across the galaxy and live on different planets. They are ruled by the brilliant but mostly cold Gold’s, while other Colours of society are forced to serve the Gold’s, such as the Reds, many of whom are slaves toiling underground in mines.
It has been about 2 years since Darrow, a Red, was carved to appear like a Gold, was at the Institute, where he proved himself to be a powerful warrior and also a talent for charisma and inspiring people – even if he has difficulty letting his friends get close to him. Everywhere he goes, he sews turmoil by pitting the Bellona’s against the Augustus’ and refusing to serve the sovereign.
Before talking about my opinion, I want to jump into a few thematic elements that I thought were interesting. I think it is thinks that will be apparent in all three of the books but I really noticed them in Golden Son, so they get to be focused on here.
References to Ancient Rome
There are a lot of connections and references in Golden Son to ancient Roman empire. This is also present in The Hunger Games, where the main theme is the idea of bread and circuses (panem et circenses). I was wondering why dystopian future novels lend themselves so well to Roman references. For example, Panem is the name of the country that The Hunger Games is set in (= North America).
I feel like this quote really nails one of the reasons why Rome lends itself to books like Golden Son and The Hunger Games. In Golden Son, the Golds oppressed those in lower social classes and were very scared of what would happen if their authority was challenged – it seemed to be synonymous with the collapse of their civilization because the society was structured in a way as to not allow anyone else at the top. In theory, other empires, like the British Empire, could be applicable, but I am not sure that the political atmosphere has the right kind of “oomph” for what the author is going for, even if I could think of a lot of ways to write something from a colonial angle. Any how, there are so many other Roman references that are very obvious, such as Roman names – Cassius au Bellona, Nero au Augustus, Adrius, Pliny, and – as well as references to historical figures like Achilles and Odysseus.
Racism and Classism
Racism is something else I feel like is an important message in Golden Son. People are different colours – Red, Yellow, Orange, Green, Blue, Purple, Pink, Grey, Gold, Silver, Bronze. While people aren’t actual rainbows in real life, I can sort of picture how this might be a message about racism. Golds are the top; everyone else is considered to be beneath them and the Reds are pretty much slaves. It’s really not ok. Some decent Golds like Mustang have learned about the social and legal things that created this system and don’t like it, others like Sevro (and Mustang!) will support people like Darrow (born a Red) in revolution because keeping people down based on their colour is wrong. Considering many historical, legal, and social processes that still persist today, I can see how this is a direct parallel to real life, whether elements were drawn from the past or present.
The Colour-stratified social system is also symbolic of classism. In addition to being judged as lesser (or more) based on physical Colour characteristics, people are locked into certain jobs and social levels based on said colours. Some of these career streams are considered better than others (e.g. being a doctor is supposedly better than being an entertainer). I’m not here to decide what is more worthy than the next; in my opinion, whether your a doctor, politician, teacher, entertainer or anything else, you have something amazing to offer to the world. That said, jobs have gone though many progressions. It wasn’t that long ago that doctors were basically considered quacks until science caught up and provided better methods of health care provision. Same with actors, 100 years ago they were were great for entertainment but kind of considered lesser – you wouldn’t want your daughter to marry one – but now we glorify and admire our favourite celebrities. *Don’t hold me to historical accuracy, I just know it’s a thing* It’s pretty interesting to see how history favours different career paths like that and how society views and elevates (or looks down on) different career choices. I feel like this is really represented in Golden Son as Darrow was getting exposed to more people from different social groups / career-stratifications. Darrow was one of the people who valued peoples knowledge no matter their background better than others.
The Contrast to the Hunger Games
In the Red Rising book review, I compared the series to the Hunger Games series. I’ve since seen a blog post (new article?) boasting about all the reasons why this trilogy will be better than the Hunger Games series. To be honest, my first thought was that “well, the main character is a man, there is possibly even more violence and sexual references, so I mean, if that’s the criteria, then sure”. I honestly don’t think the series are comparable as one being better than the other, unless it is about personal preference. Personally, I want to give the slight edge to the Hunger Games because Katniss is a woman. Also, I feel like Darrow is such a man; with his masculinity, his honour, his pride, his insistence on protecting people even if he has to be emotionally closed off. In someways I think Katniss is kind of the same; she wasn’t close to many people and she mostly cared about protecting her family, Gale and Peeta. I also think that the position Darrow and Katniss in are different. Katniss was a pawn but she was never forced to integrated and try to blend in with the vicious upper class of society in Panem, which is what Darrow had to do. I also think that now that all hell has broken loose and the Golds know what Darrow is (a Red), Darrow will change, he will probably tap into his emotions more and be able to show more sensitivity, fear, compassion, trust, etc. in Morning Sun. We’ll see.
What did I think?
I really enjoyed Golden Son. See the themes for the most detail. Overall, I am pretty happy with the series, especially because it has given me to much to think about.
Penguin Random House