Review: Catching Red
Catching Red by Tara Quan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Little Red Riding Hood is no helpless female nor is Grandma a loving relative. In CATCHING RED, a nod to a beloved fairy tale, Ms. Quan creates a post-apocalyptic world where women band together in a forest fortress. Only the strong survive and weak are tortured to death.
Scarlet "Red" Ryding is the granddaughter of the tyrannically ruler, Grandmother. One would think she would be treated like a spoiled princess. Instead, she's treated worse than anyone else. Her Grandmother violently perpetrates constant abuse, both physical and emotional upon Red. Red does have a mission and even if it is a suicide one, she will complete it to save others. This is where she meets undercover agent, Marcus Woodsman.
Ms. Quan's world building in this story is good. She's brought in zombies created by a plague and placed this in a future six decades since civilization has fallen. The details she adds to show how groups have coped post civilization is fascinating. The little touches with difference in slang is both humourous and sad. With Red isolated from males, some of her interactions with Marcus are hilarious. They are both speaking English but they aren't understanding each other. And her limited knowledge of men is demonstrated in several amusing scenarios.
The characters Red and Marcus are quite loveable. A reader would be hard pressed not to admire Red. She is loyal, tenacious and still innocent despite all the cruelty she's suffered. She's the kick ass underdog people like to root for. Marcus is a sexy enigmatic man for Red. He's supportive yet secretive. With Red's limited experience with men, Marcus easily seduces her. The sex in the story is sweet, not quite memorable. The focus is on how this society works and the dark conspiracies pulling it apart.
Ms. Quan ties off several threads in a rather fast fashion in the conclusion of this story. However, she doesn't resolve all questions, thus hooking the reader in for another installment. Which fairy tale will she twist next to suit her world? And how will it tie into the conspiracy of missing young girls?
I really enjoyed this story for both the flow and a fresh look at a speculative dystopian world. The separation of the "important" personnel as well as a segregation between sexes is well done. It reminds me of The Gate to Women's Country by Ms. Sheri T. Tepper. Ms. Quan's story is not as serious or desolate. It's still dark yet balanced with humour and sweet sex. The underlying theme though is similar and quite appealing. Basically, will a group of people design their own protective utopia or will it be a Lord of the Flies cult? It's an interesting experiment and Ms. Quan does a good job with her speculations and theories. I'm eager to see how she continues to add to this world.
Recommended for urban fantasy lovers who prefer Grimm over Disney.
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