Golden Son, by Pierce Brown, is an uncomfortable read. The writing is tight and the dystopian world plausible. It is Lord of the Rings meets a futuristic Game of Thrones. The pace is relentless, the politics twisted. Much of the story is of violent clashes with heroism and luck keeping the protagonist alive as his friends and foes die. It is unclear who stands for what as allegiances shift alongside the tides of battle.
The protagonist, Darrow, is fighting to bring down a rigid society based on a colour coded hierarchy. He was born a lowly Red but has been surgically changed to pass as one of the ruling Golds. Along with other rebels he has infiltrated the leadership in order to kick-start a revolution.
This is not just a tale of good trying to overthrow evil. The reason for the setting up of such a society was to create order for the sake of mankind’s future. As one of the leaders tells Darrow it replaced a system that was heading towards self-destruction, a system that sounds like the one in which we currently abide.
“Humanity came out of hell, Darrow. Gold did not rise out of chance. We rose out of necessity. Out of chaos, born from a species that devoured its planet instead of investing in the future. Pleasure over all, damn the consequences. The brightest minds enslaved to an economy that demanded toys instead of space exploration or technologies that could revolutionize our race. They created robots, neutering the work ethic of mankind, creating generations of entitled locusts. Countries hoarded their resources, suspicious of one another. There grew to be twenty different factions with nuclear weapons. Twenty – each ruled by greed or zealotry.”
Throughout the book is the recurring question of whether overthrowing the hierarchical order will lead to a better life for the majority of citizens. Darrow’s reasoning may be sound with his desire for individual choice and equality but any society requires decision makers and history shows time and again how power corrupts.
The strength of this book, aside from the quality of the writing, is that it acknowledges the shades of grey. It demands that the reader consider the many reasons behind any decision. It challenges idealism. Friendship, family, revenge and a lust for power are all explored. Key characters are multi dimensional, imperfect and believable.
Golden Son is the second book in a planned trilogy which started with Red Rising. I have not read this first book so came to it unaware of the back story. It took me some time to work out who was who in the large cast of characters but the story is well enough written to stand alone.
Politics is a dirty game and this book is full of the selfish and duplicitous as well as the brave and patriotic. It is written for and I would recommend it to young adults not least because it could demonstrate how revolution, even for a just cause, can have unforeseen and unintended consequences. Easy to read but not an easy read this is action adventure in a dystopian science fiction that will leave the reader eager for book three.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Hodder and Stoughton.