As I mentioned earlier (many times), I am reading a lot of books lately. So, here are some reviews (which are a bit overdue anyway). Now I am one of those “half glass full, bad news first” guys, so the bad ones coming first:
- False Impression:
For those who follow Art (note capitals), it will be a known fact that many of the paintings of the Masters are not completely painted by them. They used to (I am not sure of now) follow the pattern where The Master will draw the picture and his star pupils will paint it. The fact will also be known to people who don’t know Art, but have read this book (I fall in neither of these two categories. I read the book, but I read this somewhere else). Bollywood watchers may equate this with RGV and Associates.
Anyways, the reason I mentioned this here, is that I strongly believe Archer has rejuvenated the tradition. I mean, the skeleton of this story is cries “Archer” in no uncertain terms, but the details smell of somebody else filling the paint in the outline drawn earlier.
It is not just the fact that more than 90% of the “twists” are not blind turns (but then, I maybe have read enough books by him to know what lurks behind the corners). It is also not the fact that the thriller has a backdrop of 9/11. But the details seem somewhat contrived. You hate the villains, you love the heroes. But the characters are not human, as in say “Kane and Abel”. Even there, you would hate the blind hatred of Abel, but then you know the reasons behind that, so you can kind of follow his logic. Not here, the bad guys are just that, Bad. No reason given, no background. Good guys have no grey shades (except maybe a small amount of sneakiness, but then thats usual)
I strongly think that Archer school’s pupils have some more time to go before they can step in master’s shoes.
I knew there was more to the story than met the eye (in DD serial by the same name). I just didn’t know what I would encounter.
This is perhaps the most politically incorrect novel I have ever read. This is of course first Hindi novel I have read (and will be last for a long time to come).
In defense of the novel, what we saw on DD is not what you have in novel. The focus on Chunargarh given in DD is nowhere to be seen in the novel. In the serial, actual Chandrakanta and Beerendrasingh love story was about 10% on the tube, in the novel 90% part refers to their story. There is a Banakanya story, which wasn’t shown, as was the high-point of the story (in my opinion) Tilism (supposedly this is some kind of puzzle which needs to be broken to get a lot of treasure). I don’t know who wrote the screenplay for the serial, but I think he had something against the novel.
As opposed to this, the hindi is archaic. And I am a person who is exposed to nababi hindi, so don’t think this is compared to Puneri or Bambaiya hindi. Women are often referred to as lau*** or ra*** (imagine a a big DD style PEEEP when these words are pronounced). Then there is the fact that mantris tell their kings to keep people of one religion out of the army, since they all are traitors to the throne (These things were of course kept out of serialized version thankfully). Of course, this might be relevant to the time novel was written, but sounds so corny now-a-days.
And of course, I would love the life of aiyyar (kind of cross between spy and knight). If you catch him, you are just supposed to imprison him, not kill him. And they get to do all the good stuff, like change faces, change dresses (many times with nearest available female, leaving her without any), make people unconscious etc. Of course, it gets so predictable, that by 10th page you know every time there is some aiyyari taking place, though the characters (of course) cannot.
But, in summary, I won’t want to read any novel where a king says to another, “I want to make my daughter your son’s ra*** right now.” So chivalrous…
Now some of the good ones:
- Shabash Professor Shonku /Bravo Professor Shonku:
The first Indian Science fiction I read was by Prof. Jayant Narlikar, who is an eminent scientist. The books written by him like the novel “Vaman parat na ala” (Return of Vaman, more about it maybe later) and some of his story books played a very large part in my getting interested in Sci-Fi genre. After that I could not find any Indian novel/book which is of the same caliber. But Satyajit Ray’s Prof. Shonku come a close second if we consider that Ray did not have any scientific background, as Prof. Narlikar has (which makes his books perfect going by Sci-Fi standards).
The book is about exploits of Prof. Shonku, who is kind of “Master of All Sciences” scientist. He is a person who in the timeframe of the book (narrated as his diary) Creates a tiny human being in a glass jar (basically the life-form they create evolves from unicellular to something better than human by the time story ends), a plane which is made up of an anti-gravity metal, and a machine which helps a man to remember things he has forgotten (memory-restoring machine). He is of course a man who excels in any experiment he undertakes (as he tells us himself), which is kind of let-off, because you know it is going end well. A perfect scientist, who succeeds in all experiments, and also is utterly incorruptible and selfless, is kind of unique. But the same qualities make the stories only about what his inventions do, and not what the human behind invention does.
A worthy reading for Sci-Fi fans, if only just for the sake of sheer number and range of topics involved in inventions, and a very good imagination.
There was (can’t find it any more, help) a list of books on amazon called “If you liked Da Vinci Code”, which was followed by some books like “The Rule of Four”, “The Codex” “Foucault’s Pendulum” etc. (Forgot to save the link, and cannot find it any more, so these are all the books I remember.) All these have an historical artifact in the center with the conspiracies around it and codes it conceals.
A Codex is what a layman will call “a book” i.e. it is a sheaf of written (because printing was not invented) papers bound between two hard covers. This book is a story of a investment banker who helps a lord make some money, and impressed by that the lord (or the lady actually) offers him a reward of organizing their pre-world war II library. There is also a ‘codex’ by an obscure scholar involved in the library, which he has to find. The lord in question being very rich (he gives money to keep his name out of Fortune list), the banker cannot alienate him at first, and then he falls in love with the job, being a English major in forgotten past. He takes help of a student from Columbia university, and sets about finding the codex in question. He is gifted a computer game called “MOMUS” (which is apparently a super hit) by his friend, where he starts finding some hints (by chance, in an easter egg) to the book-quest he is on. (of course, all this comes very late in the book, when the book starts gathering pace) Apparently the lord does not want to find the book, and the lady is bent on it. So, finally when they solve the puzzle of the game, and find the book, they start searching for what information the codex holds. And then, the story reaches inevitable (somewhat surprising) end.
The book is very close to “Rule of Four”, in that the center piece is a book. But the quest takes place on a different level, with a totally different kinds of dangers involved. The story the codex tells is also very readable, and told expertly by an expert on the author.
I wouldn’t go as far to say that the book is as good as or similar to “The Da Vinci Code”, but definitely recommended for those people who love to read books, and love to read about books.
Quote of The Day:
One cannot review a bad book without showing off.
– W. H. Auden (1907 – 1973)