Friday, 15 March 2013

Brajesh's Review : Persuader

After "Persuader", I plan to stop rating Lee Child :) It always gets a 4/5 from me. Although on this one, I really debated a 4.5, but in the name of consistency I stuck to 4.

I'm not sure if the concept of “comfort book” like “comfort food” exists. But if it did, Jack Reacher would be my “comfort food/book”.

"Persuader" connects heavily to the past of Reacher. A villain returns on page one, but gets his first dialogue after 400 pages ... What an interesting construction of story.

This book also introduces us to his first serious love affair from the past, so obviously its a must read for every Jack Reacher / Lee Child fan.

Rating : 4 / 5

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Kim's Review : Song of Ice & Fire - Dance with Dragons (Dreams & Dust, After the Feast)

OMG! OMG! OMG! What a phenomenal book! What a suspenseful ending and absolutely no clue when the next in the series will be out. So many cliffhangers and no book 6 on the horizon.

At the Start of Book 5 of a Song of Ice & Fire, George Martin revealed that, he split Feast for Crows from Dance with Dragons, geographically rather than chronologically and that's why some characters were missing from Feast for Crows.

A Dance with Dragons is massive at 950+ pages and may seem daunting to begin, but after reading the first 4 books, there was no way I could postpone reading book 5

This is the first time, I finished a book and felt bereft. I was so engrossed in this series over the last few months (on & off), that now that I've finished reading every published book and the 3 chapters released by George R R Martin online (and read out to fans at comic con), I miss it. I miss the characters, I miss the storyline, I miss everything about the books. I guess this was part of the reason I waited over 4 weeks to write this review. Because writing a review, for me, means that I am done with a book. And I'm not ready to be done with the Song of Fire and Ice, yet.

Parts of me are still living in Kings Landing where Cersei's fate is unknown, on the wall where Jon Snow's fate is unknown, beyond the wall where Bran Stark's fate is unknown, in the North where Asha Greyjoy, Theon Greyjoy, Jeyne Poole, Roose Bolton, King Stannis Baratheon and Rickon Starks fate is unknown (Rickon isn't mentioned in this book either and I'm so worried for him). Catelyn Tully is missing in this book and Jaimie Lannister has gone off with Lady Tarth and no one knows where.

Princess Myrcella is hurt and the Prince of Dorne has sent his children and his brothers children all across the realm on their missions, how many of them will reach safely and how many of them will be able to fulfill the duties entrusted to them?

Beyond the narrow sea, Daenerys fate is hanging in the balance. Who are the 3 who will finally ride the dragons?

George Martin says that book 4 was a bitch & this book was 3 bitches and a bastard.

Since I've come to the end of book 5, here is my guesswork on what could be a possible plot line. ***(Spoilers ahead, don't read if you haven't read the previous books)***

Since book 2, I have suspected that Jon Snow is not Eddark Stark's son, but that of his sister Lyanna Stark who was raped by Rhaegar Targaryen. Making Jon of Targaryen descent.

Hence Jon Snow, Young Griff who is actually Aegon Targaryen (Rhaegar's son from his lawfully wedded wife Princess Elia of Dorne) and Daenerys Targaryen will be the 3 Targaryens who will ride the 3 dragons.

Jon Snow needs to die and rise from the dead so he can be freed from his oath to the Nights Watch. If this were to happen, then Jon will be free to marry Val and rule the North. While Daenerys & Aegon can be married to each other in true Targaryen style and rule the South.

Benjen Stark is Coldhands who led Bran, Meera and Jojen to the Last Greenseer.

Sam and Crasters daughter - Gilly have an important role to play.

Tyrion is obviously too interesting a character to kill off in book 6, but maybe in book 7?

I also heard an interesting POV that since Joanna Lannister was in love with Aerys Targaryen - Jaimie and Cersei could actually be his children. Since Joanna was a Lannister before marriage too and the Lannisters always have golden hair, it could be a gene more dominant than the silver hair and purple eyes of the Targaryens. This could also partly account for the streak of madness in Cersei.

This book was 959 pages long. Add on the cast of characters and it is 1016 pages long. George Martin has envisaged that books 6 & 7 will be around 1500 pages each. On the conservative side, he estimates that he will take 3 years to write each book. How can I wait that long? But wait I shall, and content myself with watching the diluted TV seasons as well, with Season 3 releasing later this month.

This book is epic and what makes it more epic than say a Lord of the Rings is that the characters all have shades of grey. No one is truly good or truly evil and Martin has done a brilliant job of telling tales from different perspectives, so the reader can empathise with the different characters. Its an extremely powerful kind of storytelling.

Should you read the books? Most definitely YES! But it may be a good idea to wait for the entire series to be out before starting to read them, because these hanging plotlines are too much to handle.

Rating : 4.5/5 (-0.5 for leaving me waiting indefinitely)

Also see my review of :
1. A Game of Thrones
2. A Clash of Kings
3. A Storm of Swords (Steel & Snow, Blood & Gold)
4. A Feast for Crows

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Brajesh's Review : Oath of the Vayuputras

This one gets the lowest rating in the trilogy.

The language jarred a lot especially stuff like Shiva saying "holy crap" and Ganesh & Kartikeya mouthing "son of a b^#%+". I am assuming the background of war and conflict led to these.

Beyond that, Amish neatly ties-up most loose ends in the last book. He also leaves sufficient open ends like Egyptian, Persian Mythology and introduction to Mahabharata as possible plots for his 5 Crore book deal.

Clearly a commentary on use/abuse of nuclear technology and gene cloning in the mythological context is a great and relevant debate for our times. Not giving much away in my review, if you have read the first 2 you will have to add this and if you haven't read the first two, get them now :)

Rating : 3.5 / 5

Also Read:

Kim's Reviews :-
The Immortals of Meluha
Secret of the Nagas

Brajesh's Reviews:-
The Immortals of Meluha
Secret of the Nagas

Brajesh's Review : Goat Days

How can anyone tell a true story of great suffering, pain, torture & loneliness with such tenderness, care, equanimity & love?

It's a miraculous attempt by Benyamin. Originally written in Malayalam, this translation has done great justice to the story. I can only imagine how beautiful the original work must have been. Anyone who has traveled to Saudi Arabia or has basic knowledge of Kerala exodus to KSA would relate to this hugely. Even if one is totally ignorant of these phenomenon, they will still fall in love with Najeeb (the protagonist) by the time they are half-way through. For me this is one of the books of 2013.

Rating : 4.5 / 5

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Kim's Review : Breaking the Bow

"Breaking the Bow" is a brilliant series of 24 short stories - each one, a work of speculative fiction inspired by the Ramayana and curated by Anil Menon and Vandana Singh for Zubaan.

Anil Menon in his introduction to the book has written a wonderful note on "What is speculative fiction (spec-fic) ?" Speculative Fiction includes science fiction, fantasy, magic realism, slipstream, surrealism, neo-modernist, post modern literature and many other sub-genres. What makes a story speculative? A simple answer, not entirely accurate, is that a speculative story is a non-realist story. In a realist story, the story's context is this actual, common sense world. In a non-realist story, there are no guarantees. Navi Mumbai could be a video game, the belly of a whale or the renamed capital of Sweden.

"The tradition of the Ramayana is to depart from the tradition" and this forms the background for each of these spec-fic stories.

Some of the stories are written by well established names like Abha Dawesar, Priya Sarukkai Chabria, Manjula Padmanabhan and Tabish Khair, but there are many authors who have been published for the first time and the authors are from across the globe.

Quite a few of the stories in this book, center around the story of Surpanakha or that of the Golden deer leading to Sita's abduction.  To me personally, the Surpanakha episode, Rama renouncing Sita and Rama defeating Vali by deception have been the 3 main incidents that I find difficult to reconcile with the rest of the Rama's behaviour in the Ramayan. So I wasn't surprised with the number of stories concerning Surpanakha

Kuzhali Manickavel's - The Ramayana as an American Reality Television Show (Internet activity following the Mutilation of Surpanakha) is hilarious in its insight. Capturing the absurdity of reality shows, the language used in online chat rooms, the trolls, the commenters on youtube videos. This story is as much a social commentary on modern online behaviour, as it is about this episode in the Ramayana.

Neelanjana Banerjee's - Exile is a piece of science fiction. Sapna who plays the role of Surpanakha in a neo-modern game world is a single woman trying to put her game face on and deal with life the best way she can with what she is given.

Aishwata Subramanian's - Making is based on the premise that Raavan (Vishravan) asked for 10 years for a city of his own and using his skills and knowledge and that of Surpanakha's he fabricated a beautiful city. Everything is created with their skills, the city, the deer, and the automaton built to look like Surpanakha.

Abha Dawesar's - The Good King is a brilliant read, focussing on Ravanas technical expertise and knowledge gained through boons which allows him to travel across time and exist in simultaneous universes. I really loved the ending of this story.

Julie Rosenthal's - Mango Grove was the most offbeat story in this book for me. This is a new story as opposed to most of the others in the book, that are re-interpreted / re-imagined stories.

K Srilata's - Game of Asylum Seekers is a Sita story, being played in a game world akin to the "Hunger Games" with the last line being the most poignant and telling.

Lavanya Karthik's - Day of the Deer is a very different twist on a very familiar tale.

Tabish Khair's - Weak Heart is about the burden Rama faced of being a God on Earth. And the final question that he asks, sums up Rama's dilemma in its entirety.

Indrapramit Das's - Sita's Descent is science fiction of a completely different kind than the others in this book. His Sita is a man-made artificial nebula.

Abirami Velliangiri's - Great Disobedience is one of my favourites in this book. Based on Rama & Lakshmana's foray into the forest to help Sage Vishwamitra its a tale of manipulators and puppet masters and how legends are born.

Pervin Saket's - Test of Fire is a short sci-fi piece with Sita as the Hero.

Manjula Padmanabhan's -  Other Woman is a brilliant tale and another of my favourites. Centered on Mandodari who comes to earth to talk to a TV journalist - Ms Basra Dott - and give her side of the story.

Lavie Tidhar's - This, Other World is a sci-fi retelling of Rama & Lakshmana's hunt for Ravana.

Priya Sarukkai Chabria's - Fragments from the Book of Beauty is a beautiful collection of conversations between Pushpaka & Ravana, Hanuman & Vayu, and Mandodari & Sita.

Molshree Ambastha's - Kalyug Amended is a a familiar tale set in modern times. The Ramayan if it were to happen today, so to speak.

Sucharita Dutta-Asane's - Sita to Vaidehi - Another Journey is the tale of Vaidehi - a modern day idealist/activist inspired by Sita.

In Sharanya Manivannan's - Petrichor - Sita tells Hanuman a tale of how she comes to be where she is .

Mary Anne Mohanraj's - The Princess in the Forest is another modern day retelling of the dilemma faced by Samiksha/Sita and an insight into why Sita went to Valmiki's ashram after being rejected by Rama.

Deepak Unnikrishnan's - Sarama is a retelling of the Ramayan through the eyes of one of Sita's demon protectors in Lanka.

Swapna Kishore's - Regressions is another of my favourites. A sci-fi tale tale of how different factions are trying to adjust the tale of the Ramayan to suit their own purposes. Was Rama truly God or the boorish son of a local chieftain

Tori Truslow's - Machanu visits the Underworld is a tale of Hanuman's son Machanu. This was the least engrossing tale for me, in the book. It could be because I am not familiar with most of the characters she has used in her story.

Vandana Singh's - Oblivion is a sci-fi tale with Hirasor being the Ravan-like oppressor.

Pratap Reddy's - Vaidehi and Her Earth Mother wanders around leaving you unprepared for the crux of the ending.

Shweta Narayan's - Falling into the Earth is also a modern day retelling of a modern Sita's dilemma.

I quite loved the collection overall, even though I am not a huge science fiction fan, I do love speculative fiction. Its a beautiful collection to carry when traveling, because the beauty of short stories is that you can stop at the end of each one.

Pick it up if alternate Ramayans appeal to you. Do not pick it up if you are easily offended :)

Rating: 4 / 5

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Brajesh's Review: Our Moon Has Blood Clots - The Exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits

A book which made me cry. This hasn't happened to me in a long time. I was totally overwhelmed by emotions through the book, and at the moment when Rahul Pandita (the author) takes his wheelchair bound mother around his newly acquired Gurgaon "house" i actually sat-up in my bed and cried.

Through my life I have known so many Razdans, Bhans, Mattoos, Kauls and Panditas as friends, colleagues and acquaintances and they never held any identity for me other than their friendship. I was always curious, but never intrusive about the traumatic chapter in their lives. Thanks Rahul for laying it out bare, cold and raw. I feel we must "forgive" but never - ever "forget" the chapter of Kahmiri Pandit's exodus. In remembrance we respect and through memories we heal. This is the non-fiction book of 2013 for me.

Rating : 5 / 5

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