A streetrat turned revolutionary and the disillusioned hacker son of a politician try to take down a ruthlessly technocratic government that sacrifices its poorest citizens to build its utopia. Olivia Chadha’s Rise of the Red Hand is a rare, searing portrayal of the future of climate change in South Asia—publishing in January 2021 with Erewhon Books.
The South Asian Province is split in two. Uplanders lead luxurious lives, dependent on technology and gene therapy to keep them healthy and youthful forever. 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, disease, and starvation.
Ashiva works for an underground network of revolutionaries known as the Red Hand, fighting a system perpetuated by a mercilessly efficient 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 deadly plague 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.
From author Olivia Chadha:
When you’re comfortable, the future feels hypothetical. You think: not now, not tomorrow, maybe never. But the most vulnerable on Earth experience climate change today. I wanted to write a novel that puts South Asia in a future landscape because it’s a place of resilient, creative people that’s often ignored in climate conversations dominated by white, affluent, Western voices. Growing up, I never saw myself in books that imagined the future. As a child of Punjabi and European immigrants, I’m in an in-between place. First-gen kids have an unspoken pressure to look to the future and back at filial history simultaneously. It’s this liminality that allows me to imagine potential futures through the past.
From Sarah Guan, Editor:
Science fiction is, as a genre, uniquely suited to asking difficult societal questions, by imagining futures shaped by today’s decisions and governed by timeless human fallibilities. I’m always looking for smart, compassionate, and different stories that put wrenchingly human faces on systemic and universal problems—and what problem is more global than climate change? Olivia’s book is not only thrillingly creative and terrifyingly relevant, but also illuminates a side of the story that isn’t often heard: that of the communities on the front lines of the climate crises of today and tomorrow. I hope Rise of the Red Hand gives all the young readers who will inherit this earth a glimpse of its precarious future, and the power individuals of all backgrounds can wield in shaping it.