The Sanguinarian

The Sanguinarian

Friday, 15 July 2016

Review- Two 'Unfinishable' Books

As much as I tried, I could not ring myself to finish the both of these books. Maybe my reading preferences, preconceived notions about both literature and society, and my penchant for well written books with stories that make sense is responsible.

My different educational and social background from the author maybe the reason I couldn't read Democracy 2.0. There's no real story, no characterization, no plot, no agency, no goals, no direction to the tale. The novel's blurb suggests it is about a revolution but it peddles and perpetuates all cliches in the Indian educational system. It repeats the same old rhetoric about MBBS/Engineering and then IAS- the path most students take when they don't go down the B.Tech-MBA way. The book blatantly ignores other unexplored fields like pharmacy, journalism, literature etc. as a revolution for young people for career choices- that's how India's actually going to rehaul it's socio-educational structure and the nation can think of developing. There are also cliches regarding women and how they should live and behave. The book perpetuates a patriarchal domination of public spaces and discourses in the Indian milieu. Some revolution.
Like I said, my different educational and social background from the author maybe why the book didn't click with me. The author should seriously read some actual books and learn how to write a story. This sounds like a fancy version of a boring government report.

The Dominion sounds like an interesting novel on the outside. But once you start reading you find out how flawed this book is. There is no cohesion to the narrative. I cannot make head or tail of the story no matter how hard I try. The flawed language and grammar, and numerous typo errors, make the novel more difficult to comprehend because it's obfuscating the story. This made it all the more difficult to proceed with the book. The author said they took three years to write the book- but this is a very poor output. No cohesion of narration, no discernible plot structure, no pacing, no semblance of sanity in the story...made the book difficult to click with me. I can only proceed with a novel when it 'clicks' with me, interests and intrigues and invites me, in the first few pages. This book, alas, fails to do that. The author needs to go back to the drawing board and rehash their skills and their understanding of the basics of the craft.

Thank you.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Review-Among the Stars- Dhasa Sathyan

Usually my reviews are long and detailed; but for this book I'll keep it relatively short and sweet. The author sent me a free copy in exchange for an honest review, so I owe him an honest review. This book is one of those you can delineate easily into the strong points and flaws, so I'll directly talk about that and try to be as lucid as possible.

First, the good points of the book:
1. The themes: In a scenario where the reader base in India is dangerously, and depressingly, tilted towards soppy, cold turkey romance novels, the author has made the right choice by opting to write a book of short stories about various human themes brought together under the umbrella of twisted, dark storylines ( another reason it clicked with me). From zombie horror to psychotic army men to psychedelic plants on mysterious deserted islands, the author has got the variety right and interesting.
2. Ideas have potential: The ideas are original and have potential, if explored properly, of making for mind-blowing stories.
3. Emotional intelligence: The stories speak of everyday human beings, our varying moods, shades and fantasies. Emotional intelligence in a book is important, at least for me, as a reader, to connect with it.

Flaws: As good is the idea of the book and its potential to shine, Among The Stars fails miserably in execution. And that's the sad part- to see books with great potential never realize their own capacity for greatness. Where it fails:
1. Language: Honestly, from the quality of writing, it's glaringly obvious that the author has had lack of practice- both in reading and writing. Too many big words and too much purple prose. A mistake many first-time writers make, seeking to impress by usage of complex words and phraseology. Wrong. The reader seeks the story, the context, something they can relate to first; and vocab second. You don't need complicated language to tell a great story and leave an impact- your writing becomes powerful when you string simple, lucid language together in an effective manner.
This needs practice. You need to read and read and read books till your mind resonates with words that coalesce into ideas. You need to write and get your work critiqued, then write more and more critique till you can pack those ideas cogently into power-packed prose. This is inevitable.
2. Grammar and quality of prose: Grammatical errors-basic ones- dot the landscape of the book, and take away from the stories. Add in the poor use of language and the prose becomes stilted and difficult to sift through. As a reader I'm being blocked because the author hasn't packed any flow into the prose. There's no finesse, and the prose is languid, lacklustre.
3. Poor editing: The editor can still take away some of the inadequacy by at least window dressing the work- especially in this case where the author lacks basic language skills and grammar skills. But where the editor disappear into on this one?
Will make a comment here, even though it's perhaps not my place to make it. Has the editing been ignored because the publisher is a vanity publishing house? Then I would advise the author to go with a traditional publisher next time, or hire a good editor if the publisher is a small or middle-level press. Editing IS important, no matter how much we are awestruck with Chetan Bhagat's bestselling status despite the horrible language and grammar and lack of editing.
It may take time, and numerous attempts, to find a good trad pub house- but in the mean time the author can hone his writing skills by reading a lot, writing a lot and getting his work critiqued by other writers in critique groups.

But do check the book out because it has some really original ideas in store: Among The Stars

Review-Honor For A Ransom- Rajnish Gambhir

Blurb: "April 13th, 1978. Kartar Singh, an upper caste agriculturist, guns down his newly married daughter Simran and her lower caste husband, for the sake of 'upholding family honour'.His ex-lover, Sarah Jefferson (a British psychologist) visits him in jail to discover that Kartar has been a victim of ruthless manipulation at the hands of his politician father, Dilawar Singh, who is known to unconditionally despise the lower caste. Vowing justice for Kartar, Sarah embarks on an intriguing mission, venturing to turn the tables against the unscrupulous Dilawar, who by now is a powerful minister in the Punjab cabinet. Curiously delving into his boyhood days, she is astonished to learn that young Dilawar was in fact an 'affable-boy-next-door' who too had a love life, having lost his heart to a beautiful girl in Lahore... What then caused this drastic transformation in his attitude and personality? With the time fast running out, can Sarah succeed in nailing Dilawar as the chief culprit for the honour killings? Will she be able to reunite with Kartar - the only man she ever loved? A heartrending love story - Honour for a Ransom unfolds through the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, horrifying hazards of partition, romantic strolls by the Thames, and the unbending complexities of the rigid caste system." 

Honor For A Ransom is one of the most touching books I've ever read. No, it's not a faux-emotional tear jerker like the tripe dished out by crap-tastic writers like Ravinder Singh. 
This is, in the actual sense, an emotion-filled, high on context and brutally honest book about both the caste system in India, and honor killings- a construct of patriarchy wherein society tries to control women's bodies and sexuality by interfering in their choice of life partners, and deciding when they should marry and how they should have kids. This book also struck a cord with me because it exposes the hypocrisy, tyranny and misogyny of the arranged marriage system. 
In the first scene itself, Kartar Singh, a man who is an agriculturist and a gentle being whose nimble hands have lifted nothing more dangerous than a pen- that too to write profound poetry- murders his only daughter Simran and her 'lower caste' husband in cold blood. 
Post that, it's a gut-wrenching tale of the havoc that Dilawar Singh, Kartar's sociopath father, wrecks upon the entire family. 
Gambhir effortlessly straddles timelines to tell the story of three different generations- 1947 and Partition, when young Dilawar's life is torn apart by events that transform him into a sociopath and narcissist who will go to any lengths to get what he wants; Kartar's own love life with the British lady Sarah Jefferson and how it's destroyed by his father; and Simran's own love story with her husband and how it is brought to a brutal end. 
Dilawar is very well sketched as the sociopath; so is his elder daughter-in-law, Parminder. 
Kartar's life journey is portrayed evocatively...of a good man who lacks a backbone and ends up hurting the woman he loves; and how he's shattered after gunning down his Simmo and her husband, and the tragedy that follows, and how his father treats him like his puppet. 
Both Sarah and Simran have been sketched extremely well as strong, intelligent and independent women with a mind of their own and a will of iron. They're my kind of women.
Especially the relation between Sarah and Kartar has been written very well. 
The most poignant story is that of Kartar's invalid mother and alcoholic brother Nihal- the devastating effect Dilawar has on their lives is both outrageous and sad. 

Read this book, for it will make you think about both the individual and societal evil that is patriarchy; and the bane that is the caste system. And when both combine, they make for a decadent populace that cannot rise above its mediocrity. 
The language is very good and the grammar is perfect. The editing shines through. 

Anyone who enjoyed the movie NH10 will enjoy this book too. I'd say go for it; we need more books like this, well-written and high on emotional intelligence and context.

Grab your copy here: Honour For a Ransom