Rise of the Red Hand by Olivia Chadha is a young adult dystopian in an urban future. In Rise of the Red Hand, we follow two people on two sides of a strange political climate.
“They can take our jobs, our lives, our city, but we continue in spite.”
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.
“If we only live in fear, we lose.”
Rise of the Red Hand was an interesting dystopian in that we were able to see things from both sides. We are often only given the viewpoint of the underdog, whereas this book gave us a look into the highly technologically advanced Central as well. I really appreciated this viewpoint as it allowed me to empathize with the privileged who were still being controlled by the government. It also gave us a look at how things have unfolded since the initial rebellions and how the technology has been used and abused since then. However, I think because of this dual view, we also lost a lot of the world building and understanding of what’s going on in this future. As this is a series, I think there’s some room for forgiveness with regards to this, but nothing about the initial story made me want to find out more. It was this strange in-between of not being given enough information, and being given just enough that made me go “meh.”
“Everyone thinks they’re on the right side. Scary thing is, even villains think they’re right. If everyone’s a zealot, who can be right?”
I really appreciated the authors culture being brought into this story and the Indian terminology used throughout. I found it really interesting, and, the glossary of terms in the back was quite helpful. Chadha’s ability to weave these integral parts of cultural language and history throughout a futuristic dystopian should not go unnoticed. Chadha also does an interesting job that is really pointed out in the above quote. If we all believe we’re doing the right thing, but we disagree about what that right thing is, who is correct?
“Disagreeing with something and fighting against it are two different things. It’s easy to disagree, safe, low risk.”
My biggest issue and this is often the case in these books, was with the romance. There was honestly no point or reasoning behind it. It happened extremely quickly, and the character’s chemistry didn’t warrant this. I was confused when it started, and even more, confused by how quickly it became intense. The two main characters are going through something troubling and groundbreaking. They’re from two completely different sides of this fight. Yet, they very quickly fall in love and are infatuated with one another. This really is what kept this from being a higher rated book for me, and is unfortunately what a lot of the characters’ actions hinged upon.
Thank you to Netgalley for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.