Darrow has the most dangerous job on Mars. He is the helldiver of Lycos, running the drill deep underground that mines Mars for valuable natural resources. Helldivers to not generally live long lives, like his father who died when he was a child. But Darrow has other plans, he is going to make something of himself, and his clan. But he can only rise so far, the caste system of society keeps his people down. They are Reds, deemed to be good at nothing but hard labor. They are ruled over by the Blues, Greys, and at the top...the Golds, the apex of human evolution.
To celebrate a particularly bountiful month in the mines, Darrow and his wife sneak off to see a big of the Martian sky (a view not allowed to lowly Reds). Returning home they are caught and imprisoned for their crime. When their punishment, a whipping turns public, Eo sacrifices her life to speak out against the Golds and the caste system. She and Darrow are sentenced to die by hanging...Darrow's life is saved by the resistance movement, Eo's life is not.
The resistance tells Darrow they need him to overthrow the Golds, to prove that anyone has what it takes to be a Gold and that the colors mean nothing. Now that the Golds think he is dead, the plan is to teach Darrow to be one of them, to infiltrate their ranks, to push him into the highest ranks the government and military. Then to reveal his true origins and bring the system crashing down.
But first Darrow must survive the most grueling surgeries to remove his Red scars, a grueling initiation and finally the cruel war-games that constitute an entrance exam to the Gold academy. Can Darrow leave his old ways behind, sacrifice everything to avenge Eo?
This book is an epic revolution story if there ever was one. Think Braveheart in space! Pierce doesn't paint his characters with one color, each is multifaceted and complex (which is basically the point of the book that we can't be boiled down to a color). Fans of Hunger Games and Divergent will love the books action and brutality.