Kindle Single Review: Fox 8 – A Story

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This is a very unconventionally written book, where the narrator is a fox who has recently learned human language and his story telling is characterized by improper grammar and abundant typos. Fox 8 is a story about a fox who gets exposed to humans and learns their language by listening to stories told by human mothers to their kids. When the jungle in which the fox lives is destroyed by the construction of a mall, the fox reaches out to humans to seek help, establish a fox-human connection. However, as he tries to come closer to them, the ugly side of humans is revealed, turning his life upside down.

As the fox says – “Why did the curator do it so rong, making the groop with the gratest skils the meenest?” So true.

Good and enjoyable, as well as thought-provoking.

Fox 8: A Story is a Kindle single written by George Saunders, the New York times best seller author of the short story collection – Tenth of December

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Book Review: The Mine by Arnab Ray

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“Makes you wonder if God himself is evil? Or whether what we consider the design of the devil is actually nothing but the will of God?” – Excerpt from The Mine by Arnab Ray (aka Greatbong).

To begin with, this book is a very bold attempt. I don’t remember having seen a novel in this genre by a mainstream Indian author. Such disturbingly dark pieces of art (movies/fiction/art etc.) are generally not well appreciated. As Indians, probably, we are not very comfortable with someone showing us the mirror. So, hats off to Arnab for this attempt.

The Mine has an interesting and engrossing story, one of those which is difficult to put down before finishing. Five experts are called to investigate some strange events happening in a hi-tech and secret mining facility, following the discovery of an ancient temple. The investigation soon turns out to be a battle for survival where each one has to face not only the diabolic traps and decoys in the mine but also demons from their past. The basic premise seems inspired by the SAW series of movies.

The characters are not mould in the usual black and white, every character is grey, some more grey than the others, and each one has a shady back story. These stories are cleverly revealed as the narrative progresses, interlinking the past lives of the characters. At the end, everything fits perfectly completing a dark jigsaw puzzle of the basest human emotions. The revelations in the last few pages, when you think that the worst is already over, are particularly chilling.

Read this one because of the eccentric characters (you will rarely find such a group in one novel together), because it is a bold and, potentially, a genre creating attempt, and because this is nothing like Greatbong we all know.

PS: Not recommended for faint hearts

Book Review: Asura – Tale of the Vanquished

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Asura: Tale of the Vanquished by Anand Neelakantan is the story of Ravan, the primary antagonist in the Hindu Mythological Epic Ramayan. Instead of portraying Ravan as a devil and Ram as a God incarnate, Anand has attempted to depict the human nature of the characters, which is more grey than either black or white. Anand has taken well-known mythological facts and weaved a very imaginative and ingenious story around it.

Ravan is one of the most fascinating characters in Indian Mythology. His character is much more nuanced than has been traditionally depicted. When I heard about this book on Ravan, telling his version of the story, I was truly excited and eager to read it.

However, this book did not match up to my expectations and this is in-spite of a very engaging and interesting story. This one’s undoing is its lax editing and poor characterization. The book is longer than it should have been and certain portions are extremely dull and boring, especially the first half. Further, the way Ravan’s character is developed is highly inconsistent. At times he is brave and knowledgeable, at times he is arrogant and acts like a fool, at times he is full of love and affection for his family, at times he insults and throws them out. There is nothing in the plot which can explain these inconsistencies, and this makes it really difficult to relate to the main character. Bhadra – the second main character and one of the narrators, also suffer from similar inconsistencies.

A good read if you are interested in Indian mythology, but definitely not something which will blow your mind.

PS: All said and done, the Shiva Trilogy by Amish remains the undisputed king of novels based on Indian Mythology.

Book Review: Narcopolis

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Narcopolis

“Because, said Dimple, it isn’t the heroin that we’re addicted to, it’s the drama of the life, the chaos of it, that’s the real addiction and we never get over it; and because, when you come down to it, the high life, that is, the intoxicated life, is the best of the limited options we are offered – why would we choose anything else?” – Excerpts from Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil

To be frank, Narcopolis is a complicated and difficult to read novel. The characters are complex, sentences go on for multiple pages, the narrative keeps shifting from one character to another and from one time period to another. Everyone may not like or enjoy it. There were portions of the novel where I lost track of what is happening and had to re-read some pages to understand it fully. However, once you get to know the characters well and get into the flow, the book is an absolute delight. It exposes the filthy and smelly underbelly of Bombay with a brutality that has never been attempted before.

Set in the infamous opium dens of Shuklaji Street in Bombay, it is a story of addiction with the city of Bombay as the protagonist  Supporting characters include Dom – the foreign returned junkie, Rashid – addict and owner of an opium den, Dimple/Zeenat – addict, eunuch prostitute who works at Rashid’s, Bengali – addict and employee at Rashid’s who has an opinion on everything from religion to politics to science, Mr. Lee – the Chinese addict and owner of another opium den, and Rumi – another addict (you get it – everyone is an addict). Through these characters Jeet has drawn a naked portrait of Bombay – ugly and nasty, yet so true. There isn’t any well-defined plot – just an amalgamation of various stories of related characters connected by the drug, the den and the city. Jeet is also a poet and the influence is clearly visible here. This influence has made his writing unique, one of the strongest points of this novel.

Narcopolis is the debut novel by Jeet Thayil. It was nominated by the 2012 Man Booker Prize. In his own words, Narcopolis is about Bombay of the 70’s and 80’s – the city of intoxication, where the substances on offer were drugs and alcohol, of course, but also god, glamour, power, money and sex. The book draws from his own experience as an addict.

PS: The novel is laden with foul language, violence and sexual content. Not suitable for underage readers, or for readers who are easily offended.

Book Review: Gone Girl

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Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

“I was told love should be unconditional. That’s the rule, everyone says so. But if love has no boundaries, no limits, no conditions, why should anyone try to do the right thing.” – Excerpt from Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Breathtakingly Fresh & Totally Awesome!! These four words sum up my views on this book!

Gone Girl is the story of Amy and Nick Dunne, a married couple of five years. Both of them, after having lost their jobs in New York, had to move back to Nick’s home town to take care of Nick’s sick parents. Amy mysteriously disappears on their fifth anniversary and Nick seems the prime suspect. However, as the plot unfolds, new secrets about the victim and the supposed perpetrator are revealed, literally turning the plot upside down.

Full of twists and turns and a couple of “Shawshank Redemption Moments”, I was not able to put it down once I started. Told from point of views of both Nick and Amy, and following a non-linear narrative, it is a very intelligently structured fiction. A well written book with really interesting characters – especially Amy’s (In her own words, Gillian specializes in difficult characters – damaged, disturbed, or downright nasty and Amy is a perfect example)

On the face of it, Gone Girl is a whodunit thriller set against the backdrop of a broken marriage. Peel off this layer and you will find that this is truly a story about relationships – a noir love story between a narcissist husband and a physco wife.

The novel is being adapted to a movie by 20th century fox. Eagerly looking forward.

PS: The book has some dark moments and a good amount of foul language.

Kindle Single Review: A Face in the Crowd

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Dean Evers, an old widower who lives alone, spends most of his time watching baseball games on television. Then he starts seeing familiar faces from his past in the game crowd. These are people who are long gone and each of them reminds him of some guilt or regret from his past life. Things take an interesting turn when he sees himself sitting in the crowd.

To be very frank, King is an acquired taste, and not everyone enjoys or appreciates his writings. I have always been very ambivalent towards his writings. Some of his works are magnificent (like the dark tower series), others – I do not find anything great about them.

This story – it is gripping and enjoyable. Some readers may find the ending abrupt, but I liked it. The loneliness and pain of an old man living alone is presented in a heart warming way.

Although a good read, it is not a masterpiece which will sweep you off your feet.

A face in the crowd is a Kindle Single by Stephen King and Stewart O’Nan. Around 43 pages in length, King fans will find it to be an engaging read which can be completed in one lazy afternoon.

Book Review: How Parking Enforcement Stole My Soul

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“…it’s the story of my journey of learning that a job is more than just a job. It affects who you are, your character” – excerpt from How Parking Enforcement Stole My Soul by Ben Friedrich

How Parking Enforcement Stole My Soul is the autobiographical story of how Ben’s life and character are affected because of his job as a parking enforcement officer – his transition from an easy-going and friendly person who was considered by mothers as an ideal companion for their homely daughters to being grumpy, sadistic and a jerk. On a broader level, it is about the stress and emotional turmoil which results from doing things in your job which your heart and soul are not in agreement with, and the impact it will have on your physical and psychological well-being.

It is an engaging and enjoyable book. The first person narrative is like having an intimate conversation with a friend over dinner or a cup of coffee. It is a frank and candid account of Ben’s experience, without any attempt to make him look heroic or good (self-glorification is one of the most common pitfalls of autobiographies – and Ben has done a good job of staying clear of it). Although, he is a good performing officer (in terms of number of tickets), he is not an ideal one. Description of his failed romances is also very real and honest – not overly melodramatic. Also, the story is sufficiently laced with humor and sarcasm which keeps it from being too emotionally laden.

By the end of the book the message is loud and clear – you life is too previous to waste on the wrong job. You may think that it is just about the hours you spend while on work. But it is much more than that. It effects you as a whole, it defines and shapes who you are. If you are in such a  situation, find an escape route. Sacrifice on material gains, if you must. Otherwise, momentary comfort may lead to life long regret.

PS: I received a complimentary copy of this book in order to review it