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How About Some Mecha Wars? Fall of the Iron Gods by Olivia Chadha

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How About Some Mecha Wars? <i>Fall of the Iron Gods</i> by Olivia Chadha

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How About Some Mecha Wars? Fall of the Iron Gods by Olivia Chadha

A review of Olivia Chadha's new YA science fiction novel.

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Published on July 2, 2024

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Cover of Fall of the Iron Gods by Olivia Chadha, showing a red landscape. A person wearing a machine-like backpack and holding a tablet is in the foreground. A large mecha towers over the scene.

It may have taken three years, but Fall of the Iron Gods, the propulsive conclusion to Olivia Chadha’s Mechanists duology, is finally here. When we last left our crew, it looked like the rebels were on their way to winning. The Red Hand, the revolutionaries looking to take down Solace—the AI that runs the South Asian Province—and the corrupt government that put it in place, has expanded its ranks and united their many disparate groups into one big team. They have a plan to finish what they started, but the timeline speeds up when they learn the Planetary Alliance Commission is targeting them for immediate extermination.

Ashiva, with her brand new and very expensive cybernetic arm, has been promoted to General Shankar’s right hand. But something is off with her new tech. Her brain won’t sync up with the code in her new arm, and she’s haunted by visions (hallucinations? memories?) of the woman who raised her. Synch is finding it hard to settle into life in the Red Hand. No one trusts him except Ashiva and her younger sister Taru, but he can’t stand the thought of heading out on his own and leaving behind the girl he loves. Even if he’s not entirely sure if she loves him back. So he does what he does best: use his hacking and coding skills to bring justice to an unjust world. Taru, meanwhile, is struggling with her complicated feelings toward her sister. Desperate to prove she’s not some little kid who needs protecting all the time, she throws herself into perilous situations without hesitation. 

Just as it looks like victory is in reach, the PAC throws a wrench into the Red Hand’s plans. A brutal attack on the Red Hand and the citizens of SAP, both law-abiding and not, leads to turmoil and unrest. A new, dangerously powerful AI is being foisted upon the populace, and nothing and no one is able to control it. The Red Hand is once again scattered to the winds. Ashiva, Synch, and Taru are pulled apart, thrust into roles they’re not ready for, and forced to decide what they’re willing to risk to save their people. 

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Fall of the Iron Gods
Fall of the Iron Gods

Fall of the Iron Gods

Olivia Chadha

Fall of the Iron Gods takes a bit to get going, and once it gets going it’s a bit slower than I think some readers will expect. Chadha has to do a lot of worldbuilding and place-setting, perhaps a little too much, in order for the finale to have a big enough punch. And while Ashiva gets a lot of character growth in both books, Synch and Taru stall out in this one. They both make decisions they already made in the first book, with similar stakes and similar outcomes. I wish they had been challenged in new ways. However, at least this time around they could work through their processes with more wisdom and experience. They know the consequences for acting and not acting and can make their choices from a more mature perspective.

Where all three of our protagonists really grew as characters was in their relationships. Taru learns the value of community and that the revolution cannot be fought or won as an individual. Synch learns that dismantling systems of power isn’t just a metaphor but a reality, and that a true resistance movement has to include many communities, not just the most oppressed. Ashiva learns to trust herself, to trust in others, and to know when to let go of the past. What I appreciated the most was how light the romance is. Ashiva and Synch are ostensibly a couple, but they spend most of the book apart. Not pining or dreaming of each other, but the connection is still there. Taru also gets some sapphic flirting in between battles with bloodthirsty cyborgs. Romance is there, but it’s so backgrounded that it never even makes it to subplot status. Given how much romance has seeped into young adult fiction lately, this is a welcome respite.

Once the plot does get going, Chadha leans hard on the accelerator. The last hundred or so pages are a race to the finish, nonstop frantic action and intense battle sequences. You want mecha wars? You got ‘em. There’s even a side quest to a new territory with a kick-ass queen, toxic glass, and killer sandstorms. 

I know this book was written a while ago, but there are so many moments in it where I was instantly reminded of current crises. The wealthy and privileged trying to solve one set of global problems created by capitalism with technology that exacerbates other global problems because they’d rather make money off the tech than do something for purely altruistic reasons. Governments turning to military technology to oppress their citizens and suppress the resistance. Using AI as a literal weapon. Testing technology on those deemed unworthy, then packaging that tech and selling it off to the highest bidder. Watching your government slide into fascism faster than you can stop it. The elites deciding “fuck earth, let’s colonize space” and leaving everyone else behind to die on a collapsing planet. Putting all the weight of saving the world on the next generation of young people. 

If you watched Andor or The Expanse and got all riled up wanting more, Olivia Chadha’s Mechanists series is tailor-made for you. All the brick throwing at planetary oppressors your heart desires, plus mechas, cyborgs, hackers, and a splash of romance.  icon-paragraph-end

Fall of the Iron Gods is published by Erewhon Books.

About the Author

Alex Brown

Author

Alex Brown is a Hugo-nominated and Ignyte award-winning critic who writes about speculative fiction, librarianship, and Black history. Find them on twitter (@QueenOfRats), bluesky (@bookjockeyalex), instagram (@bookjockeyalex), and their blog (bookjockeyalex.com).
Learn More About Alex
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