Rise of the Red Hand

Erewhon. (The Mechanists: Bk. 1). Jan. 2021. 384p. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781645660101.
Gr 8 Up–A quarter-century after a massive nuclear World War III, dying Earth is divided into nine provinces contending for resources. In the South Asian Province, corporation-run on fascist lines for the benefit of the powerful and privileged (in their elite Strata), a Central district separates Northerners from the “Unsanctioned.” Then a pandemic breaks out. Ashiva (a talented smuggler and avid trainee of the Red Hand resistance) is a feisty, though not fully realized, cyborg hero. She and two others—her brilliant 12-year-old nerd sister, and a connected-but-disaffected male teen data-specialist—alternate first-person, present-tense narration. Power is a key theme, along with identity, bias, and trust. Occasional Punjabi, Urdu, and Hindi phrases (contextually clear), and much techno-speak, could be either assets or liabilities. Little beyond the odd mango or sari signifies “sub-continent” specifically, cultural distinctions having presumably been vaporized. After a lively opening, the story stutters in the middle, with confusing alliances and motivations, too many new characters, and too little continuity and plausibility. The final chapters recover their charge, but leave the plot unresolved.
VERDICT Readers seeking sci-fi with political, environmental, technological, and South Asian dimensions might overlook the shakier aspects and stick with this series.

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