I started reading this novel late night on weekend and totally sucked into the whirlpool of the story. Hell! No saints in paradise is basically, a dark dystopian satire based on Islamic extremism. In not so distant future, Pakistan turned into caliphate of Al-Bakistan under the rule of a khalifa. People follow shria law to its core and anyone who don’t comply even a shred of the law branded as kafir and killed mercilessly.
Ismael, a Pakistani-American working on his PhD thesis with the sole purpose of rebuffing Islamic concept of Hell and Heaven. In certain set of events and in trance state (after ingesting Alahuasca, a psychedelic drug which induces hallucination), agnostic Ismael met Chacha Khidr who motivated him to go on a journey of self-discovery and redemption. Ismael agrees to be a part of conspiracy, which can potentially save the while world from unknown yet potent danger.

What intrigued me most is how the author picked up references from Quran and created story around it. Being a Hindu, I found these references fascinating, it gave me access to almost untouched territory of stories and mythologies scribbled in this Islamic holy book. Another interesting thing is the first person narration of the protagonist Ismael. This book is a chronicle of Ismael’s journey, his adventures, misadventures, realization and redemption.

First half of the novel is very well written. You will feel the influence of Salman Rushdie present in the novel in the form of super natural beings like Chacha Khidr and Pir Pul Siraat, parallel realms like Dump, heaven and hell, space-time fabric of the universe. Author effortlessly wrote about fantasy interlacing it with the probable reality. Second half was inconveniently fast paced, I felt like there was an attempt to finish the story in a limited word count. I was enjoying the subtle flow of the story and suddenly overwhelmed by the torrential flow in the last part of the story.

Talking about the dislikes, I was really not able to understand the sudden change of heart of Ismael. First experience of hallucination, one dose of Ayahuasca and Ismael turns into ardent believer of the higher cause and agrees to jump into black hole. I was expecting that author will eventually elaborate this rapid change in protagonist’s life path but found none. There was a strong reason why Ismael became agnostic, why he repels the idea of heaven and hell. This reason was lost at some point in the story and Ismael became a mere instrument in the hands of Pir Pul Siraat and Chacha Khidr, obeying the commands and doing all dirty work. I wanted to read the depth in Ismael’s character but it felt like he was chosen only because his father was someone important in the inner sanctum of caliphate and not because any of his personal virtues.

All in all, enthralling story with high imaginative quotient, action packed climax and intelligent blend of fiction, mythology, science, religion and fantasy.

**I received a copy from Writersmelon in exchange for an honest and unbiased review**

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DVARCA – A unique masterpiece, one of its kind.

I was very young when I read a classic tale of 1984 by George Orwell. It gave me all sorts of instruments to look into the future with my dark glasses on. I kept digging around since then to look for similar kind of imagination and vision. My decade long search ended today while reading the last pages of DVARCA.

First of its kind by an Indian author, this book will take you through a scary journey of a dystopian future where Indian sub-continent is renamed as DVARCA. Anarchic state religion Navmarg controlling all possible aspects of its inhabitants. You should work according to them, eat according to them, and even think according to them. Every possible definition of freedom is crushed under the strict anarchic rule based on an orthodox system. The totalitarian government uses cutting edge technologies like genetic mutations and futuristic controlling devices to give pseudo belief of freedom. Your Karma and Dharma will earn you Punya based on the calculation of a  mathematical formula. You will work your life out to earn punya with the sense of false Moksha.

Vivid descriptions and lucid writing style give you goose bumps at more than one occasion. It helps you to create the imagined stage for the story as thought by the writer.

However, I felt that some key characters were not described in detail (May be left out for the sequels). Some sub-plots too were left on a cliff hanger, definitely pointing to an upcoming sequel.

One special mention to the effort put in naming each chapters. Interesting titles of chapters actually gave flare to the book.

Author used some of the very ancient rituals and regulatory rules like Maika system, gender biasing, curse words giving it a totally different dark perspective. This all seemed to be possible in distant future to me when I initially started reading book. But as I made progress, it instilled primal fear in my heart and gave chills to my spine. I started questioning myself at the turn of every other page – ‘can it be even possible?’ And when I started getting ‘Yes’ frequently is when I really understood the real horror that might really occur in our life.

This book shook my belief and raised question on the fundamental understanding of my religion. By the end of the book, I found myself wiser in my understanding  of the complex concept of Religion.

DVARCA started with a beautiful (my favorite) quote by and great philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and did justice to every aspect of it:

‘He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.

And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.’

 

P.S. – Shahtooti Anjeer will be a new catch phrase among dystopian fiction readers. 😛

Year – 2250

Sheer weight of constantly rising human population is crushing Earth beyond its breaking point. All natural and man-made resources are already exhausted, basic necessities like water and food are running on a thin line. World economy is on the verge of collapse with the exponential demand and tending towards zero supply. Mass depression created paranoid people who are finding solace in renouncing their religion and faith. Hope was experiencing a painfully slow and anguishing death along with the omnipotent God.

Amidst of all this chaos, group of scientist and engineers from space agencies across the globe working day and night collectively to find a solution. Desperation of finding a viable alternative was driving them crazy. After 5 years of efforts and hard work, they all are anxiously waiting for some good news. It’s time for the news.

—————————————————————

ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network Centre – Byalalu Banglore

Vikram squeezed his eyes concentrating on the monitor at 0400 hours. He prefers working in this shift just to track one particular AELP. He was sure that some day he will intercept the signal relayed from AELP-46. It is one of many probe sent into deep space to look for exoplanet which have capacity to sustain like Earth, hence the name of the probes – Another Earth Like Planet (AELP). Vikram specially looking forward to number 46 because once a legendary man by the name Valentino Rossi rode bike of the same number in MotoGP championship. Now an extinct sport event. Vikram was crazy about him and often consider that number 46 brings good luck to him. Today is the lucky day.

AELP-46 found something. Vikram punched in commands to established the connection with AELP-46 and constant stream of data flooded his terminal. He quickly routed the stream to main computer for data crunching.

‘Eureka!’ Vikram screamed and sprang from his chair as soon as he received the processed data from main computer. AELP-46 found a star system identical to ours. Fifth planet from the star was fulfilling all conditions as a potential alternative of Earth. Vikram anxiously waited for the complete processing and prepared a final report. He then quickly broadcasted the message to main council. He named the planet ‘Rossi’.

—————————————————————

First thing he noticed while entering into council chamber was grave face of Shri. He looked back at Vikram but his face has no expression not a slightest sign. Vikram was expecting at least a nod from him today, after all he was now the harbinger of hope. Shripati Venkat, Director General ISRO representing India in world council. He stubbornly lived his life only on logic and facts, devoid of any existent emotion. He looked around to other members, cheerful faces of council member lighten up Vikram’s mood.

Vikram located his seat at the other end of the long oval meeting table. He was wearing his favorite tie, today is the important day. He was attending the legendary council meeting. Members of the council are the sharpest minds on Earth. They will decide fate of AELP-46 and next course of action.

‘Council is aware that you are requesting to bring AELP-46 back on Earth, which was anyway a standard procedure. However, we want to know if it’s possible to extract core data while keeping AELP-46 in High Earth Orbit (HEO) or worst case in Middle Earth Orbit (MEO)?’ Council head casually said what he himself knew was impossible.

‘What kind of question is this?’ Vikram looked at council members in disbelief.

‘It is not possible, not today not in next hundred decades and I believe council members already know that.’ Vikram continued,  ‘Yes, I designed AELP series probes but I received the specifications from the council. As per the specification, final set of data can only be extracted from AELP drives manually, it is too large to handle wirelessly. Even if we try doing it, transferring data alone will take more than 7 years, processing it will take next 5 years and we all know the current situation of our planet. We no longer have luxury of time, Earth is now damaged beyond repair and if we don’t do anything now, I am afraid, human race will get extinct.’ Vikram was getting impatient as the temperature of the council chamber started rising.

‘Do you know me Vikram?’ One of the council member interrupted him after getting a nod from Shri.

‘Yes. You are Dzmitry Leonov. Director Russian Federal Space Agency (ROSCOSMOS). Youngest astronaut in the world and an accomplished astro physicist. You also spear head Inter-Agency Debris coordination committee (IADC) and actively voiced your opinion on how to mitigate the risk of space debris in Orbital Debris Co-Ordination Working Group. You along with your team is responsible for creating first effective laser broom prototype.’ Vikram felt goose bumps with every word.

‘That’s an overwhelming introduction. Thank you for the honor.’ Broad smile appeared on Dzmitry’s face.

’Now, what I am going to tell you is a classified information. You in any case shall not divulge a single strain of this information in outside world. Is that clear? Shall I continue?’ Dzmitry said in deep voice. His face was steel again.

‘Yes. Please continue.’ Vikram settled uncomfortably in his chair.

‘Council wants you to send on a space mission. Mission that can save dying human race. You shall be required to go into space, onboard one of our space station. We will make sure you will get everything you need along with AELP-46 on the station. Your primary objective will be to process the core data of AELP-46 and relay the information to base station. You can come back afterwards and resume of regular work.’ Dzmitry added, ‘I must warn you Vikram that the journey will be dangerous and full of challenges. You have to decide whether you want to sign in or not. I suggest you to take a minute or two, let this information sink in and then tell your decision to the council. Fate of our world rely on your decision. Choose wisely.’ Dzmitry put both his elbow on the table, rested his chin on interlinked finger. He looked intently into Vikram’s eyes for a moment and then looked away.

Vikram was confused. He thought that today’s meeting was about the plan to bring AELP-46 back on Earth. Now he understood that he misjudged the council but what he is not able to understand is the reason behind such a meticulous plan, investing unnecessary effort on such an easy task. What confused him more is the information coming from Dzmitry. Definitely, the idea of going into space lure him. It was Vikram’s childhood dream but his instincts told him that something was not right. He can’t put his finger on it but he knew that he is missing something very important.

Suddenly, something clicked. Something Dzmitry said. He told Vikram that he was about to share some classified information. Going to space station is not a classified information, it’s a plan. Plan, which somehow relates to this classified information. Story is not yet ended. He looked at the council members.  Twelve pair of eyes focused intently on him.

‘I am ready for the mission but…’

‘…But you want to know the complete truth. Yes, you deserve it. In fact I would have suspected your capability if you didn’t asked for it.’ Shri interrupted him.

Vikram just nodded. Technically he didn’t ask anything. It was Shri who wanted him to act like he wanted to know. True to his nature, Shri never believed that Vikram will realize that there is any truth, let alone demand it.

‘Tell me Vikram, do you know about Kessler Syndrome?’ Shri started again with a question which Vikram knew he himself will answer.

‘Yes, obviously. Kessler Syndrome is a scenario…’ Vikram started talking but he knew that Shri will interject him any moment.

‘Kessler Syndrome was first hypothesized in 1978 by the NASA scientist Donald J. Kessler. It is a scenario in which density of space debris in lower earth orbit (LEO) reach to an extent that collision between large space debris create a chain reaction. A cascade effect where each collision generates space debris that increases the likelihood of further collisions.’ Shri concluded.

He continued, ‘It is scary. Isn’t it? One space junk hit another, which in turn hit another junk and another and in less than 8 minutes your one small impact will hit you hard from behind traveling whole earth’s orbit.’

‘This is theory, now let’s talk about some facts. My friend Dzmitry here warned us couple of months ago that we are on verge of experiencing Kessler effect. One more mistake and we are gone. Forever. This is exactly why we are requesting you to go on this mission. You understand AELP probes better than anyone here and by on boarding you and AELP-46 on space station will cut the risk subsequently. We are walking on a double edged sword here, it is imperative that we must find another earth to sustain but on the other hand we also have to make sure that while doing so we don’t lose this one.’ There was a sadness in Shri’s tone as if he already accepted the inevitable.

‘What about all programs we were running to tackle this problem? What space debris coordination committee did to avoid it?’ Vikram was shaken to the core.

He looked towards Dzmitry, ‘What happened to your laser broom? It was suppose to be clearing out the space debris as we speak. I thought you finally cracked the funding taboo and did something not for the benefit of capitalist pocket but for our planet.’ Vikram finished the whole sentence in one breath.

‘You Dzmitry Leonov sir became my role model when you announced that your laser broom is now operational. The timing was impeccable, Envisat satellite just collided with Russian jumbo satellites. All eyes were on you and you heroically saved Russia from global shame and embarrassment. What happen now? Or was that just a political gimmick. You neither had the laser broom nor the intention to do something worthwhile for your planet.’ Vikram’s eyes turned red with anger.

‘Back-off Vikram’, Shri hissed, ‘Dzmitry did all he could. In desperation of finding another earth-like exoplanet, all council members decided to put hold on all unnecessary projects and concentrate our energies on finding viable solution to the problem in hand. Where do you think we get all money for your beloved AELP probes?’

‘Now stop whining and tell us if you are ready and want your chance of redemption or not?’ Shri started showing first sign of his famous anger.

‘Yes, I will definitely go there’ Vikram crashed hopelessly on the chair. He knew nobody can do this job better than him. He will not miss the chance of doing something like this. His morals were too high.

—————————————————————

580 Days later.

Space shuttle carrying Vikram and his equipments docked on Kalam space station (KSS). Largest space station ISRO ever launched. AELP-46 was scheduled to be docked in 3 days. Vikram was like a new flesh and bone toy for the crew. They were living on KSS for more than 4 years now and almost forget the smell of wet soil and cold winter breeze. There was a carnage when he opened box of his personal items. Life was tough on them but they all were satisfied being an instrument to find new home for mankind.

After setting up all his gears, Vikram went into main module to meet station chief. He already met Hannah 5 years ago when she was getting trained to handle signal from AELP probes. Back then she was an over excited woman who wants to know all. Vikram was excited meeting her after so many years.

‘Hi Vikram, welcome aboard. How was your travel?’ She was looking much older than what Vikram imagined. Working in such a hostile condition took a serious toll on her.

‘I am good. Travel was scary but I like being here.’ Vikram floated towards but went pass her to barge on the side wall.

‘I heard about your council meeting from Shri. How are you holding up with the information?’ Hannah continued in casual tone, ‘he asked me to show what we are doing to combat the situation here.’

‘Dzmitry’s team helped us installing 7 short range laser sweeps which automatically locate space debris ranging from 2 cm to 10 cm and destroy it before it reaches to our station perimeter. Frequency of laser blasts are increasing everyday, it’s like a Star Wars out there. The only difference is that the dark side here is created by humans.’ Hannah kept her humor alive.

‘What about larger space debris, more than 10 cm? What will happen then?’ Vikram already know the answer but he hoped that Hannah would say something to prove him wrong. She didn’t say anything.

Vikram looked at AELP-46 with admiration. Little soldier didn’t let him down. It now holds the key to human salvation. He gave a pat on the display panel and started hooking his equipments into the probe. He wanted to go back on earth as soon as possible. Vikram was missing gravity the most.

Vikram hadn’t slept for more than 18 hours. He fixed some of the initial glitch in the interfacing but stuck in power module. AELP-46 went into hibernate state operating only the beacon signal to preserve the data. Now, the difficult part was to get it back online. Vikram would have done it in few hours back on earth. Here the story was different. He was forced to manage with whatever little resources available to him.

‘Auxillary power is not sufficient. I need main power supply if I have to make this damn thing make work.’, Vikram finally snapped. He looked at Hannah frustratingly.

‘Vikram, KSS is already running on full potential. I cannot give you any more power. You don’t have the faintest idea what it takes to feed 7 laser dragons.’

After 7 hours of heated discussions, rounds of pleading and negotiations. Hannah finally agreed to find way to route more power into AELP-46.

“End-Of-Data-Stream”

Vikram was elated looking at the message. He at last managed to send all raw data extracted from AELP-46 to ISRO Telemetry center. Even the processing started back at the data center. By the time he will reach back on earth, all answers will present itself. Hannah managed to shutdown 3 of her laser sweeps to satisfy the energy requirement. She was also happy that all this is over. She took a huge risk shutting them down. It was not safe, KSS took some serious hit and her team had to work around the clock the fix them. She was never happier to send somebody back to home.

 

—————————————————————

‘Destiny play cruel games sometimes Vikram. It will give you hope, send you to all the right places, make you do all the right things. Make you believe that you are very near to your goal. Answer is just before you, you just have to take out your hand and grab it. When you do, it slips away. Away from you. Then you start over because it does not let you abandon your dream. It will give you another illusion to play with. We are trapped in maya Vikram. Maya makes you see things which are not there in the first place. It gives you sense of accomplishment and rejection. What do you see now? Darkness, nothingness. This absence of maya is the absolute truth. Darkness is not end of the road it is portal to the new. You found a new world, you will give all your effort to reach there. Nothing can stop you. Nothing can make you stay back but you forgot the rule of Shiva. Law of Karma. Even your precious maya will not be able to save you from your karma. All chances are exhausted Vikram. You have to break the cycle. You have to wake up… You have to WAKE UP…’

Vikram felt chilling sensation in his spine as he woke up from his nightmare. He cleaned sweat beads and closed his eyes again. He was confused between the reality and dream. He opened his eyes again. He was tied to the seat in a spacecraft going home. Satisfied, he closed his eyes again.

‘It was the weirdest dream I ever saw. Someone familiar was talking to me. Asking me to wake up.’ Vikram’s wide opened his eyes as he realized that the person in his dream was himself and then he realized the blunder he made.

Vikram untied himself and swiftly glided towards the pilot.

‘I want to talk to Hannah on KSS. It is urgent that I speak to her now.’

‘Sorry sir, we are in a blind zone for 5 minutes no communication is possible. Go back to your seat, I will let you know when the lines are open again.’ Pilot tried shaking off Vikram.

‘No, you don’t understand. It is imperative that I talk to Hannah right now. She is in danger. Whole KSS is in danger.’ Vikram’s face was filled with horror.

‘Give me a moment. Let me try.’ Pilot started panicking too.

After 3 long minutes which seems eternity to Vikram the communication panel sprang into action. He quickly grabbed the headphone and signaled pilot to patch him to KSS.

‘Yes, this is KSS chief Hannah. What is so urgent that you send SOS signal. What happen?’ Hannah was irritated.

‘Hannah, listen to me very carefully. Send someone to my workstation as fast as you can. I think I forgot to remove the auxiliary power channel from AELP. I am sorry, it slipped from my mind. I was distracted with the data transfer and my desperation to leave for earth.’

For the next 2 minutes Vikram didn’t received any response from the other end. However, he can hear Hannah screaming on top of her voice, barking instructions to the crew members. He can also hear the static, Hannah was personally going to the workstation.

‘Vikram’, she responded in a deep cold voice after a long pause, ‘Make sure you visit my home and tell my son personally to never come to space. Never.’

‘What happen Hannah?’

Vikram’s headphone filled with a deafening noise followed by a complete silence. Noise left his brain numb for some time. He looked around, pilot was shouting something. He can’t hear him, his voice was fumbling. He closed his eyes to focus his disoriented mind, glided to the left window. He can see the explosion. Crimson white array of flashes filled his small round window. Vikram was trying to look beyond the explosion into the space. He wanted the dark void to engulf him, he knew that this will haunt him for the rest of his miserable life. He single handedly not only killed hundred of people aboard KSS but also destroyed the future of his planet. Explosion of this level will set off the Kessler syndrome in motion. It is now out of human hands to leave earth. He forced his mind to throw this dreadful thought out of his mind. Ironically, his mind start echoing with something Prof. J. Oppenheimer quoted from Bhagavad Gita when he invented the atom bomb: “Now I am become the death, the destroyer of worlds.”

—————————————————————

Vikram locked himself in his room for eternity. His shuttle was the last to land safely on earth. All operational satellites were wiped out in matter of minutes after the explosion. There was a utter chaos everywhere, all communication systems were destroyed, no mobile phones, no internet. It’s the inception stone age. Humans are trapped on dying earth. Trapped till the doom of the human race. Revenge of the nature was finally served, cold and brutal and Vikram was her instrument. Thought of committing suicide often come to him. Just like Shri he also wanted to die. To find solace, find peace but he was not sure what’s on the other side. May be Shri’s soul is screaming at him right now in agonizing pain. Pleading to set him free. Vikram sometimes look out of window in the sky and wonder if Hannah’s soul is free now or she is also trapped in this Prison Earth.

 

The End

 

 

 

 

UNNS – True to its name this book is truly Captivating

I am a big time fan of author’s first book – Finders, Keepers. Therefore, I read UNNS twice so that my fondness for Sapan didn’t cloud my judgement while reviewing his second book.

Let’s start with the cover page of the book – UNNS, the second stage of love, blue colored rose and the sub-title ‘The Captivation’. Everything depicted on the cover page beautifully carried the idea of what lies ahead. A young story, darkness of human emotions, love, betrayal, rage, regret and what not.

UNNS is story of Atharva and Meher. I said story because contrary to the fact, it is not a typical love story. This book is a soul who lived all seven stages of love again and again and finally breaks away the captivation in the end. Destiny bring a young couple together attaching them with the invisible string of fate. Same twisted fate tread different path for them setting them apart and then bringing them together again and again.

Story moves with a constant pace with flashbacks and current events along with the twist and suspense at the end of almost every chapter. Setting of the story and the sub-plots created all necessary elements.

I will not dig much into the story, instead I will elaborate some unique features of the book:

First – Title and the book even the blurb talked about all 7 stages of love. Sapan managed to arrange chapters of the book with the chronological order of all 7 stages along with the weather. And he did a full justice to each stage. I mean, if the stage is ‘maut’ then the subsequent paragraphs will take the story towards the same fate. What is phenomenal is that along with this, both Atharva and Meher lived there own 7 stages of love interwoven layer by layer in the story. Very few authors think about naming the chapters with such creativity and interlace it with something so complex yet succeeded to keep it simple.

Second – From very initial chapters Sapan started scattering breadcrumbs for readers to catch. You have to focus on every small details, tiniest hint to appreciate the book. Everything has a purpose, every paragraph has a reference. Even the details as insignificant as the favorite dishes of Atharva and Meher. This is a genius masterstroke by Sapan.

Third – Some words are best left unsaid. Sapan cleverly dropped some of the conversation at the cliffhanger. Trusting readers to guess the emotions embedded in the heart of the characters and in the process connect with them. I think this gave diversity to the book, not all readers think alike. You may have your own unique version and I can have my own version of the same story. It gave me a sense of purpose while reading this book.

Finally, Sapan’s UNNS is not perfect but the question we should ask – Who want perfect?

Atharva and Meher made different choices in life, choices which destroyed them, gave solace and closure. In the end, they both saw the order in chaos. Chaos of shrewd mind and innocent emotions.

I would like to mention two line of our beloved shayar Mirza Galib, which will give complete essence of UNNS – The Captivation:

Mohabbat mein nahi hai farq jeene aur marne ka,

usi ko dekh kar jeete hain jis kafir pe dam nikle

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I came across novels of Kavita Kane every now and then but this is the first time I got my hands on her latest novel ‘Lanka’s Princess’

Kavita Kane bravely picked up the most difficult character to narrate the events of Ramayana. Story of Surpanakha was shrouded in mystery throughout the epic. Author did a beautiful job of connecting all dots and filling the gaps with her vivid imagination. One unique element of the novel is the depiction of all shades of feminism, joy and warmth of jovial girl, agony and pain of hurt woman. This novel is a blend of all recognizable-unrecognizable human emotions.

All we know about Surpanakha from the theaters and TV serials that she was an ugly & lustful witch who completely enamored by handsome Lord Ram. Lakshman sliced her nose when she started forcing him to marry her. She went to Ravan, her eldest brother, asking for revenge, instigating him hurting his ego. This started a chain reaction which finally ended with the demise of Ravan and his Lanka.

This book tread different path of Surpankha’s life, the feminine side. How a child was undermined in her family, ill-treated by her own mother. How a passionate girl fell in love with an enemy and how the same girl turned into a ruthless revenge seeker. There is one another seldom mentioned lady of Ramayana who gets good amount of pages in this novel – Mandodri. I wanted to read more about her but settled with the thought that the book was about Meenakshi.

Meenakshi, youngest child born from the wedlock of a rishi Vishravas and asur Kaikesi, experienced her mother’s hatred throughout her childhood. This hatred transformed Meenakshi into Surpanakha, one who is hard as nails. Her elder brother, mighty Ravan stole all limelight forcing her to live as unwanted child in her own family. She finds solace only in embrace of her father and in soft words of Kumbhakarna.

Lord Krishna in dwapar yug narrates the story to kubja Trivarka. Story of love, war and betrayal, story of Treta yug when He was Lord Ram and she was Surpanakha.

Lanka’s Princess is a fast paced novel with a simple yet effective language. Short and crisp chapters will push you to keep on turning the page.

One and probably the only thing I didn’t liked about this novel is too much feminism. I believed that some of the events are exaggerated to give a black & white contrast. Specially with Ravan, I don’t think he was that evil. Our epics never portray black & white, there is always a grey shade to all personalities. I felt some back-of-the-mind biasing with the character sketch of some of the important characters of the novel.

All in all, good read if you enjoy Indian epics. This novel has capability of getting you to the depth of Ramayana.

‘I received a copy from Writersmelon in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.’

mainak_dhar

Dystopian novel with Not-So-Distant future and very interesting title.

It starts with a subtle story of ambitious cubicle dweller, celebrating his recent promotion. All hell broke down from second chapter.

Well thought dystopia thriller, which will keep you on the edge from the first page till the epilogue. Author created elaborated plots and sub-plots without any loose ends.

As a reader, first person narration always intrigued me and in this case author absolutely nailed it. Almost all aspects of the story along with the back stories, descriptions and setting were described beautifully from the prospective of the protagonist. This type of storytelling definitely restrict story to a boundary making protagonist center of the universe but Mainak handled it perfectly by attaching protagonist to threads of all events important for the pace of the story.

Best part of the novel was the transformation of common man from a fearful human to a brutal killing machine for the sake of survival. How societies turned into tribes and the raw human instincts kicking to tackle the hostile and brutal enemies. How the tranquilizing nature of human soul was tarnished with violence in the shadow of fear and death.

Mainak did a wonderful job in describing the inner conflict of keeping sense of repentance alive while killing brutally for the greater good. Effort to bring order in Chaos while dealing with the bigger questions in hand. Question which will haunt every reader till the end of the novel is, Will it ever be normal again?

Some aspects of the novel raise serious concerns on our technology centric life. How we forget the importance of a simple conversation over social media frenzy, how our patriotism doesn’t go beyond liking facebook pages and retweeting nationalism.

I got goose bumps while reading some of the chapters towards the climax. My heart was filled with fear and darkness while reading the first confrontation with the enemy.

I will not give any spoilers, but the setting of the story, selection of the enemy, survival tactics all very believable. God forbid, we may someday face similar kind of threat where the stakes are high and danger is potent.

In the end, I would like to quote last lines of the novel, which I think are the essence of the whole novel:

“It was in those days, that I learned that even if your whole world is painted black, you can start to light it up again. All it needs is for each of us to realise that we should stop waiting for someone else to provide the spark; that the spark lies within each of us.”

 

druids

 

The Secret of the Druids is an exceptional novel with well researched story. It is like a big magical cauldron, mixing a perfect cocktail of mythology, history and legends.

This third installment of the Mahabharata Series will take you on a journey of Julius Caeser and beyond, into the mystical times of Druids and ancient India. How roots of ancient Indian civilization spanned across the planet creating Gods and Goddesses. How Immortal glory of our ancient past lived among the legends and stories of the lands across the sea.

Doyle’s scientifically detailed and almost accurate explanation of the secret will dwell in your mind, making sure that you conduct your own research on it. Trust me when I say, you will be enthralled with the revelations of the secret. He has left plenty of dots scattered all along for us to connect.

Vijay and team played the cat and mouse game with the mysterious and mighty ‘The Order’ against time, which I think made some part of the book predictable. Yet, there was a clear effort to bring new adventure by introducing new characters on both the side.

The only part I disliked was the injustice done with some of the key characters of the book. Characters like Radha, Kurt Wallace, Dee deserved more story space and background. Fate of some of them are even left to a cliffhanger without any hint of closure.

All in all, The Secret Of The Druids is a must read for people who love legends, mythologies and mysteries.

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Dasharajna or the ten kings is a part of Rig Veda, story of a valiant king who defied all odds and won a legendary battle against collective mammoth armies of 9 king of Bharatkhanda . India’s very own 300 but unlike Spartans they lived to tell the tale. Initial setup and descriptions were bit lengthy but necessary for the story arc. Kusa fields, Uttanga mountain, Parsuni river and even the animals, all of them played a significant role in the story.

Ten Kings is fast paced account of just one day of righteous king Sudas’ life. How clouds of gruesome battle hovered over his clan and how he snatched almost impossible victory from the jaws of his enemies and laid down the foundation of one of the most advanced civilization of ancient India at Harappa.

Ashok Banker is a master story teller and with his impeccable grip on english language he spun beautiful tale out of Rig veda. With King Sudas, enigmatic Guru Vashishta and fearless warriors of Trstu clan he created a vivid picture of land of five rivers.

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This novel has comprehensive and extensive research on ancient Indian heritage. Finders,keepers is a perfect blend of history, mythology, technology and legends ranging from ancient beings like Shiva & Vishnu to Ashoka’s Mauryan empire. It is a must read for people who relish work on ancient Indian legends and myths.

Two morally motivated characters trailing cold blooded killer midst of clues ranging from almost all sacred Hindu text, stories and conspiracy theories. Most beautiful part of the story is the analogy and connection between the historical places all across the Indian sub-continent with the stories of Hindu legends and beliefs. The precise execution of the perfect plan interwoven with the mysterious secret society of nine unknown men thoroughly explains the feud between ancient sects which changed the face of Hindu society.
The Author has done a fabulous job of researching on people like Tulsi Das bringing out the believable facts which are concealed in the web of mythologies.

One special mention, the best part of this novel is the average human like characters, who tried solving mysteries and riddles like normal people, not like super genius who knows everything in and out and solves everything in the first attempt. Ishan & Shoumik, the protagonists of the novel banged their heads clueless around the riddles, and worked on the quest tirelessly, eventually came up with the solution. Their frustration with the wrong deduction and sometimes no deduction at all kept the pace of the story within realistic realm.

The only discouraging factor is the length of the book, with approx. 600 pages the novel is bit lengthy. I said discouraging because as soon as you start reading this gripping tale, unraveling the mysteries on every turn of the page this book will be un-put-down-able and eventually you will find out that you are missing your next day job, happened to me.

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I was very skeptical when I started this novel but this book went beyond all my expectations.

Started with India-Pakistan partition in 1947, story of two individuals Arvind and Arbaaz. This novel is India’s own version of Kane & Abel by Jeffry Archer. Reference to the real world persons and events will magically create an inseparable connection with the story. You will get a detailed & accurate description of everything within the timeline of the two protagonists of the book. This is a story of two individuals, who lead very different life but attached to each other via threads of destiny. It’s a grand Saga of cosmic entanglement, love, life, betrayal, karma & fate.

Another unique part of the book is the alternate narration of the ancient secret society of Nine Unknown Men, Author did an extensive research on them and portrayed very different dimension of Ashoka’s Unknown men. However, my thirst to read more about The Nine Unknown Men was not quenched by this novel. All the dots were connected beautifully but still something was missing. People who want to read this novel just to read about the secret society may get little dishearten but I suggest giving points to Ashwin Sanghi’s bold experiment with the book.

I tweeted this to Ashwin Sanghi after finishing the book, “Wonderful book. Epilogue is a masterpiece. I prayed for more pages after every page turn.”

Epilogue was indeed a masterpiece and you will yearn for more and more as you turn page. I wish Ashwin wrote a novella taking epilogue further in the realms of mythology and legends.