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15 CAPTIVATING Books Like Red Rising

Last Updated on November 12, 2023 by Louisa

If you love a good dystopian novel, chances are you’re not looking for a light read to escape to another world.

Books like Red Rising are thought-provoking stories that reflect our current world or issues we may face in the future.

Often ending up on banned book lists due to sensitive topics, these stories serve as a warning of what may come if our impulses are left unchecked.

If you enjoyed Pierce Brown’s dystopian debut and want to read more books similar to Red Rising, I’ve got a reading list for you!

Whether you appreciated the wide world-building, detailed characters, or Mars-based scenario, this list of novels like Red Rising has something for everyone.

Affiliate Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through any of these links. 

Summary of Red Rising (No spoilers!)

red rising by pierce brown

For three years, sixteen-year-old Darrow has been drilling deep beneath the surface of Mars for helium-3, the lifeblood of the terraforming process that will ultimately make the planet habitable for future generations.

Darrow is a Red, the lowest caste in a color-coded caste system ruled by Golds.

Darrow’s world is shattered as he discovers the horrific reality of the Reds and their plight. Humanity already reached the surface generations ago, and Darrow and other Reds are little more than servants of a decadent ruling elite.

Fueled by personal loss and rage, Darrow becomes determined to seek justice for his people, no matter the cost.

He gives up everything to enter the famous Institute, where he will be forced to compete for his survival and the very destiny of civilization against Society’s greatest and most vicious ruling elite.

Related Reading: The Best Red Rising Quotes

Acclaimed Books Similar to Red Rising

If you enjoyed Darrow’s personal struggles, vivid writing, and the intense, perfectly paced plot then you are going to absolutely love all of these books similar to Red Rising.

1. American Gods – Neil Gaiman

american gods by neil gaiman

When his wife Laura is killed in a vehicle accident, Shadow gets released from jail three days early.

Shadow is crushed by her death and is much more upset to find that she died with his best friend Robbie, with whom she had an affair.

He returns home and takes a job as a bodyguard for Mr. Wednesday, a strange con artist who claims to be a refugee, a former deity, and the king of America.

They set off on a bizarre adventure across the heart of the United States, visiting Wednesday’s acquaintances and encountering a hidden America where magic is real and fear grows over the increasing power of New Gods.

Similar to Red Rising, America Gods is a tale of deception, power, and sacrifice. The story is a mash-up of Americana, fantasy, and mythology that takes a hard look into the soul of America. 

2. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

ready player one by ernest

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is set in the dystopian year of 2044, Wade Watts is one of many who seek refuge from society’s chaos in the online virtual reality game called OASIS.

Even within this utopia, Wade feels an alluring pull to uncover the secrets puzzles, that their creator has hidden within the digital walls.

Those who are able to complete these riddles will be rewarded with immense fortune and power.

When Wade discovers the first clue, he finds himself competing against ruthless players determined to claim the ultimate prize as their own.

Suddenly, survival is more important than ever as Wade must face off against his opponents while also taking on a challenge even bigger than himself; confronting the real world he wishes to avoid.

He must take on the impossible if he wants to win this race, but can he?

Related Reading: The Best Books Like Ready Player One

3. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

the hunger games by suzanne collins

In Panem, society is divided into 12 districts, ranging from the wealthiest to the lowest, with each area serving the Capitol, the wealthiest district of all.

To keep the districts in line, each year the Capitol forces one boy and one girl from each district to fight in The Hunger Games —a battle to the death in which the victor earns a lifetime of food and money for their family.

When sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen’s sister gets chosen for the games, Katniss volunteers to take her place.

But in the Hunger Games, there can only be one victor.

In order to make it home alive, she must use strategy and skill to outwit not only her opponents but the ones who forced her to be there in the first place.

If you enjoyed Red Rising, then you’re likely to enjoy books like The Hunger Games and Divergent.

4. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

the handmaid's tale by margaret atwood

A civil conflict erupts in a dystopian future when environmental calamities cause dwindling birthrates.

The United States of America falls apart, and the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian state, enslaves the few existing fertile women.

Bound to produce children for one of the Gilead’s commanders, these women are known as the handmaids.

Offred is a Handmaid in the Gilead Republic.

She is allowed to leave the Commander and his wife’s home once a day to visit grocery markets, where the signs are now images rather than words because women are no longer allowed to read.

Deprived of seeing her husband and children, she lives through memories of before to get her through each day.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is one of those books like Red Rising (and The Giver, if you have read this book too) that delves deep into complex themes of class and politics and how knowledge and complacency can have powerful impacts.

5. The Martian – Andy Weir

the martian by andy weir

Mark Watney is the last man standing on Mars, abandoned by his team and left for dead after a devastating storm.

With no way of communicating with Earth and limited resources to hand, his survival seems virtually impossible.

Yet Mark refuses to give up. In an effort to fight against the hostile terrain and punishing environment, he must rely on his engineering skills and ingenuity to stay alive day after day.

Will he be able to triumph in the face of insurmountable odds?

The Martian is a story that will have you on the edge of your seat until the very end. It’s good not only for sci-fi fans but for anyone who is looking for a unique and exciting story.

Related Reading: Books Like The Martian

Young Adult Books Like Red Rising

If you liked Red Rising because of the young adult pacing mixed with complex themes, then you are sure to enjoy these dystopian fantasy and sci-fi novels.  

6. The City & The Stars – Arthur C. Clarke

the city and the stars by arthur c clarke

Earth is so old that the oceans have vanished and mankind has all but disappeared. As far as the people of Diaspar know, theirs is the only city left on the planet.

For millennia, its protective dome kept the outer world’s degradation and danger at bay. No one goes in or goes out.

Except for Alvin, everyone on Diaspar has had previous “lives.” He is one of just a few “Uniques,” people who are different from everyone else in Diaspar not only because he has no prior life to recall, but also because he feels driven to escape.

As Alvin grows older, he begins to wonder if there is actually nothing left outside of the city and searches for a way out.

Throughout his journey, he discovers that the narrative of Earth’s collapse and Diaspar’s ascent is far more complex than he or anyone else could have anticipated. 

If you like books like The City & The Stars, you might also like books like The Outsiders.

7. Scythe – Neal Shusterman

Scythe - Neal Shusterman

In 2042, sophisticated medical technology has made immortality a reality. Through nanites, humans may reset their physical age while keeping their memories, and injuries can be cured in a matter of days.

Scythes are now the only ones with the ability to terminate life—and they are directed to do it in order to keep the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to be scythe apprentices—a job neither of them desires. These teenagers must learn the craft of taking life, knowing that failure might result in the loss of their own. 

Throughout their apprenticeship, Citra and Rowan learn about the political culture of their society, and its possible corruption.

Like Red Rising, Scythe challenges us to ask questions about what our future holds, and what happens when technology surpasses our greatest aspirations.

If you think this book sounds enticing, then you might also like these books like Darkest Minds.

8. Dune – Frank Herbert

Dune - Frank Herbert

In the year 10,191, human beings have spread out and colonized planets throughout the universe.

On the desert planet Arrakis, Paul Atreides is tasked with ruling in a society where the only item of worth is the “spice” melange, a substance capable of prolonging life and expanding awareness.

Melange is a reward worth killing for, especially among the wealthy.

When House Atreides is betrayed, the devastation of Paul’s family sets him on a path to a destiny greater than he could have dreamed. And as he matures into the mystical Muad’Dib, he will realize humanity’s most ancient and unachievable goal.

9. The Maze Runner – James Dashner

The Maze Runner - James Dashner 

When Thomas wakes in the lift, he is surrounded by strangers in a place called the Glade.

Not only has their memory been erased, but they also have no idea how they got into this situation or what steps they need to take to get out.

Beyond the Glade’s tall stone walls lies an infinite, ever-changing maze. During the night, terrible creatures emerge, devouring anybody who gets in their way.

It’s the only way out—and no one has ever made it through alive.

Their situation is complicated even further when a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers changes everything.

Related Reading: Books Similar to The Maze Runner

10. Nil – Lynne Matson

Nil - Lynne Matson

On the mysterious island of Nil, the rules are set. You have exactly 365 days–to escape, or you die.

The problem is that seventeen-year-old Charley doesn’t know the rules. She doesn’t even know where she is.

Charley wakes up alone, with no sign of other people. That is until she meets Thad, the leader of a gang of teens. Soon, Charley discovers that leaving the island is more difficult than she anticipated.

With Thad’s time running out, and Charley’s feelings for Thad growing deeper, Charley knows that she must first save him in order to salvage their future. After all, on this island, their biggest enemy is time.

Sci-Fi Books Like Red Rising

The sci-fi setting is a favorite aspect of Red Rising for many. If you’re looking for dystopian sci-fi books similar to Red Rising, then these might be just up your alley.

11. The Outlands Saga – Tyler Edwards

The Outlands Saga - Tyler Edwards

Dios is a haven city, protected from the hostile environment known as The Outlands.

Ruled by an oppressive Patriarch, the people of Dios are conditioned in fear. Even minor infractions may result in exile to the Outlands, a punishment worse than death.

Labeled an Undesirable since his parents were murdered when he was six, his very existence is considered a crime. To survive, Jett lives as a thief with a group of others like him.

But, as a desire to oppose the Patriarch grows, Jett finds themself unintentionally entangled in a conspiracy to topple the government, where his decisions might lead to freedom or the murder of everyone he’s ever known or cared about.

View it on:

12. Enders Game – Orson Scott Card 

Enders Game - Orson Scott Card 

In preparation for a third invasion, Earth’s worldwide military forces recruit young children to train as top commanders.

Military strategy and leadership are taught to the children through increasingly demanding war simulations, including some in zero gravity.

Six-year-old Andrew “Ender” Wiggin believes he is playing computer-simulated war games, but the truth is considerably more terrible.

Ender, the product of genetic research, might be the military genius Earth sorely needs in a fight against an alien army bent on annihilating all human life.

The only way to find out is to subject Ender to more extreme training, chipping away at him until he reveals his potential.

If you liked Red Rising, then Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card is a classic sci-fi novel that needs to be on your reading list.

13. Wool – Hugh Howey

Wool - Hugh Howey

The last of mankind lives underground in a solitary silo amid a damaged and inhospitable terrain.

They’ve been there for so long that there are only tales of humans living elsewhere.

Inside, men and women live a confined existence filled with rules and laws, secrets and falsehoods.

There are some topics that should not be mentioned, such as going outside. To live, you must abide by the rules.

But there will always be those who hope and dream. These are the dangerous ones, the citizens who spread their optimism to others.

Juliette, a mechanic from the depths, is one of those dreamers, with a complete disregard for the norms she’s expected to follow.

When she is abruptly and unexpectedly promoted to the position of chief of police, she used her newfound power to uncover clues about the mysteries of the Silo and the secrets it holds.

14. Hyperion – Dan Simmons

Hyperion - Dan Simmons

Over a thousand years into the future, humankind has conquered space travel and colonized hundreds of worlds in the Milky Way.

On the eve of Armageddon, with the whole galaxy at war, seven pilgrims embark on a final journey to Hyperion in search of solutions to their life’s unresolved questions.

As the Seven Pilgrims face the risks and shocks of their trip across the labyrinthine universe, each of them tells their Tales to the others, revealing their origins and motivations, in order to uncover why they were chosen for this Final Pilgrimage.

And one may hold humanity’s fate in his hands.

15. Dark Matter – Blake Crouch 

Dark Matter - Blake Crouch 

Jason Dessen is heading home through the Chicago streets one night, anticipating a nice evening in front of the fireplace with his wife, Daniela, and his kid, Charlie, when his world is shattered.

A masked abductor knocks Jason unconscious, and he awakes to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Jason’s existence in this new world is unlike the one he remembers.

His wife is not his wife, and his son was never born. Instead of an average college physics professor, Jason is a recognized genius who has accomplished something extraordinary.

As Jason attempts to return home, he embarks on a journey more amazing and terrifying than anything he could have imagined—one that will drive him to confront the worst elements of himself while battling a fearsome, apparently unstoppable opponent.

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books like red rising

Final Word on Books Similar to Red Rising

There is an endless number of dystopian books like Red Rising that are captivating page-turners that will keep you interested and enthralled for many hours.

However, not all of them quite spoke to me like the ones on this list.

I hope this book gave you some inspiration for what to read after Red Rising? Do you have any recommendations that weren’t included on the list? Tell me in the comments!

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About Louisa Smith

Editor/Founder - Epic Book Society

Louisa is the Founder, Editor, and Head Honcho of Epic Book Society. She was born and raised in the United Kingdom and graduated from the University for the Creative Arts with a degree in Journalism. Louisa began her writing career at the age of 7 when her poetry was published in an anthology of poems to celebrate the Queen's Jubilee. Upon graduating university, she spent several years working as a journalist writing about books before transitioning to become a Primary School Teacher. Louisa loves all genres of books, but her favorites are Sci-Fi, Romance, Fantasy, and Young Adult Fiction. Read more Louisa's story here.

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