Rise of the Red Hand by Olivia Chadha
The South Asian Province is split in two. Uplanders lead luxurious lives inside a climate-controlled biodome, dependent on technology and gene therapy to keep them healthy and youthful forever. Outside, the poor and forgotten scrape by with discarded black-market robotics, a society of poverty-stricken cyborgs struggling to survive in slums threatened by rising sea levels, unbreathable air, and deadly superbugs.
Ashiva works for the Red Hand, an underground network of revolutionaries fighting the government, which is run by a merciless computer algorithm that dictates every citizen’s fate. She’s a smuggler with the best robotic arm and cybernetic enhancements the slums can offer, and her cargo includes the most vulnerable of the city’s abandoned children.
When Ashiva crosses paths with the brilliant hacker Riz-Ali, a privileged Uplander who finds himself embroiled in the Red Hand’s dangerous activities, they uncover a horrifying conspiracy that the government will do anything to bury. From armed guardians kidnapping children to massive robots flattening the slums, to a pandemic that threatens to sweep through the city like wildfire, Ashiva and Riz-Ali will have to put aside their differences in order to fight the system and save the communities they love from destruction.
Trigger warnings: eugenic principles, genetic experimentation, pandemic, forced segregation, classism, violation of human rights, assault, technocratic manipulation.
A dystopian that seems to be fast approaching, this science-fiction set in the south asian province is a sword of horrifying climate change, classist ideologies, and impending destruction of those who don’t deserve to be saved—a selection done by humans with more resources—on a lit candle of hope, justice, and revolution.
Like a wind than can extinguish this flame, further gene-based stratification in the midst of a raging pandemic is set to choke the already struggling, barely surviving, and largely underprivileged population even more. Lightly but intentionally influenced by the real world tensions and imminent need for alignment to outlive the mechanical, technological, and environmental atrocities, this debut shows strength in the very many themes it wishes to highlight.
Interesting is a world set in a dreadful future yet still stroked with nuanced desi cultural references, from food to salutations and from non-translated words to beloved values weaved through generations. The scientific explanations and detailed mechanics is impressive to the genre fans, and the side characters take away the spotlight as more complex personas than the cliched main characters who don’t intrigue much—though, the heroines are clearly better developed than their male counterparts.
Refreshing and much needed as a desi sci-fi dystopia, it provokes thoughts and inflicts a subtle pain of reality, but does underdeliver through a choppy writing, average editing, and disruptive pacing.
This post is written to promote this book provided through a publicist by receiving a digital copy via Netgalley but everything stated in the post is solely my opinion.
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