When I started this book last Saturday, fairly early into the holiday weekend, I congratulated myself on my timing. I really didn’t know much at all about this series, but for some reason I had the impression that I’d have trouble putting it down and would therefore get through a good portion of it over the weekend. It didn’t really work out that way; I didn't finish it until the following Thursday evening.
The story starts off in a pretty standard dystopian manner. Our main character, a teenager named Darrow, is a member of a group of oppressed people, the “Reds”. The Reds are sacrificing to make Mars habitable for the human race, working dangerous jobs, barely receiving sufficient food, and being punished harshly if they don't behave the way they're supposed to. As expected, we soon learn there’s more going on than the Reds are aware of and they’re even more oppressed than they realize.
This wasn’t a badly-written book, but I kept getting restless while reading it so I kept putting it down to do other things. I don’t automatically turn my nose up at a book just because the story is based on familiar themes. I prefer things that are more surprising and unique but, if a story is well-written, and if I care about the characters, I might still really enjoy the book. I can’t really quantify what fell short for me here, but there just weren’t many surprises in the story and everything felt really generic to me. The first half of the book felt particularly flat. I liked the main character, and I liked some of the secondary characters, but I never became terribly attached.
The story did start to pick up for me at some point in the second half. Without giving anything away, the main character realized a flaw in his tactics and started to take a different approach to things. I found that more interesting and more appealing. There were a few small twists here and there, and I definitely didn’t predict everything, but I never really felt shocked or amazed by anything. Part of my problem may be that I’m on the rebound from the really awesome books I read recently by Carol Berg. Those were some of the best books I’ve read in the past several years, so everything else probably seems less interesting by comparison.
I debated a little bit about whether or not to continue the series, but I’ve decided to at least read the next book. The story did pick up toward the end and I’m interested to see what will happen next. I’m hopeful that the rest of the series may feel less generic now that we’re hopefully moving past the events from this first book.