Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

 

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. 😛

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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.”

 

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All my fears washed away instantaneously, excitement filling its place. Like a small kid who found a new toy to play I started moving swiftly to the all sides of the cube to see all my memories. I was thrilled seeing it all. All of my life, my pride, my success, my regrets on everything. I was crying and smiling simultaneously, crashing on the floor exhausted by the overwhelming emotions brimming out of my eyes. The ceiling above me is now shining like a bright sky filled with stars.

“But where is the moon, why can’t I see Her?” I asked myself and started searching for my most desirable memories fanatically all around me. Her memories are no where to be found. I closed my eyes to find her, nothing but darkness.

“You are wasting your energy finding her here.” a little guy again materialized in my head,
“and stop calling me little guy, I am bigger than your grasp and imagination. Who do you think is pulling this show here”.

“OK, I apologize”, I plead to him in effort to make peace. “But please tell me why can’t I embrace her memories when this is only thing I yearn for.”

“Because you locked her up in a box and hid it in the deepest and darkest part of your mind. She is not free; you are suffocating her by holding too tight. You need to free her, so that she can come to you.”

He was right; it’s been 2 years already since I had any kind of interaction with her but never felt that she is away. I contemplated that I am incapable of embracing her memories and it can only bring ache.

“This is a self-inflicted pain that you are experiencing. You are the reason of all your miseries. Let her memories fly like she always wanted, it will bring serenity and peace to you. You must smile to feel the warmth and tenderness of her smile.”

My vision started getting blurred by the tears now filling my eyes. Voices and images started floating in the glass room filling it rapidly. I understood now, I was not imprisoned in that room, it was just that I pushed everything else to make place for her but never had guts to filled it, therefore living in a void space all this time. Glass boundaries started fading and the intensity of the yellowish tinge started increasing creating bright white light. I smiled and close my eyes as I dived into it.

“Hey, Bro. Wake up, it’s too late now. What happened to you?”, my room partner was shaking me violently.

I woke up and in the end found my self shirtless in the balcony of my flat. I asked him, “What exactly happened?”

“I don’t know, You were drinking lots of wine puffing lots of weed shouting that you will end world hunger and save the world from global warming and instantly went into the trance state. I thought you are asleep only to find you here in the morning. You were smiling and blabbering gibberish. Why you do such things?”

“Sometimes the only way to find yourself is to get completely lost.” I peacefully smiled at him and started picking bottles to find the leftovers.

The End

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Plot: 4/5

Characters: 3/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Climax: 3/5

Entertainment Meter: 4/5

Unique in its own way, Svaha is a blend of rich Indian mythology and a super hero’s saga. After reading about Thor of Norse mythology and Zeus of Greek mythology finally we have a superhero from our own Indian mythology. It is a fictional story woven around the folk tales and Indian myths of our childhood.

Slash, young reckless naive girl found herself in middle of the grand plan of humanity’s destruction. However, she has a guardian angel on her shoulder, indestructible Soldier X. Flying man in a leather jacket who is cool in his own way.
There is no particular villain, but yes several very important characters. Some of turn try to open the portal between the two worlds to unleash one of the most feared villain of Indian mythology.

There are several sub-plots in midst of the story which creates a larger picture on the whole. Major Khanna from FORCE ONE, Paramacharya of the Trimbak math, The Council and The Deus Corp all trying to exploit the opportunity and achieve their own agenda. The key piece to save the world is ‘The Chosen One’ with Angel on her shoulder.

Can Slash save the world from destruction? Who exactly is Soldier X? Why is He helping Slash?
Pratik did a wonderful job, narrating the whole story in a short and crisp chapters. He avoided the details, which I personally don’t like but way he carried away the whole story with so many sub-plots is admirable. Backdrop of the protagonists and the antagonists are beautifully explained. He built the sense of excitement and suspense which is flawless.

Book ends on a cliffhanger with some loose ends clearly indicating the forthcoming sequels.

With ‘Svaha’, Pratik started an altogether new genre of Indian superhero writing which was long-awaited.

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