April 28, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: 'Maneater' by Jack Warner

 It had been a long time since I read Jim Corbett and Kenneth Anderson going in the jungles of India and shooting rogue animals. Of special interest were their encounters with leopards and tigers, dreaded man-eaters who craved human blood in the dead of the night or stark daylight.

'Maneater' (also published as 'Shikar' in another edition) was lying on my shelves since a wrong time in the pile of books that I will perhaps never willingly read and the inspiration to read this came from an amazing documentary on Discovery some days back. This book starts with an amazing flashback of a man-eating tiger called slashfoot (called so because of his deformed pugmarks) in the Indian jungles, who is a daredevil and hunts humans at any time of the day. The chapter ends and a new one begins in present day Georgia, where an illegal party of animal organisers is transferring a caged royal Bengal tiger in a van. And ultimately when the van falls in a ditch, the driver realises the tiger has jumped out. A couple of days later the tiger makes his first prey, Lanelle Jackson, a woman who is out on delivery. The tiger now roams the dense forests of Appalachian mountains. Where tigers are unheard of, this mystery animal soon becomes a force to fear, almost Satan-like. With depleting herbivores like boars and deer, the tiger soon starts searching for easy prey in the form of careless human beings.

And then as the death tool rises and the media starts putting pressure, the sheriff of Harte country, Grady Brickhouse starts shaking in his pants. He tries everything with support from the governor and even some untalented gunmen and the military but to no avail. The tiger outsmarts them all and even managers to make prey of the very people who are out hunting it. And then comes old Jim Graham, who's been modeled on Corbet as a God-like hunter from India in his earlier days. Graham has retired and his health is failing and amidst doubts on his ability to hunt the man-eater, he does manage to trail the tiger and study it yet he does not seem to be making any progress when it comes to hunting it down. All this till Graham manages to find out about the bond between the tiger and a small boy named Roy, who lives on the outskirts of the forest with his mentally challenged mother. From hereon, the story gets interesting as Roy is befriended by both hunters, Graham and the tiger. The thing to be seen is that will Graham's last hunt be successful or will the tiger, who resembles slashfoot (whom Graham's father had hunted down or it was believed so!) will make him pay for his decision.The small boy is unsure whom he should support and aid because it means that one of his friends would die. The way his character has been handled has been a revelation.

Warner writes in a simple narrative, taking care to introduce even the victims and their motivation to be in that place where the tiger would soon walk on. The dialogue seems draggy at times between characters that actually don't matter to the story. Somehow it reminded be a bit of Benchley's 'JAWS' but Warner has his own unique style that works for the story. The concept is definitely great. We have read about man-eaters in India where a tiger or a leopard could easily wolf down over two hundred (official) individuals in its career as a man-eater but a tiger in America! Sounds fascinating. Couple with good research, Warner makes an impressive debut and the blurbs on the book justify the praise. A great beginning and a great ending, somehow tend to make you forget the draggy middle that puffs up the book to at least a hundred pages more. Overall, it definitely makes for an amazing adventure novel, definitely under-rated. I would go with a 4/5 for this strongly suspenseful novel.

Get it from Infibeam


April 24, 2011

Who inherited 'The Inheritance Cycle'?

 As usual, I was just browsing bargain deals online for books when I came across this on Flipkart on their pre-order page. For a second, I was surprised. I had almost given up hope like the millions of people worldwide who wanted to see the Inheritance series come to an end. The next couple of minutes, I excitedly read the blurb and went through the page completely. Then I sighed again after seeing the release date.

To date, the Inheritance cycle has sold more than 22 million copies worldwide and has garnered praise and criticism alike form many but the biggest slap on the series was issued  by fans themselves as they got tired waiting for Paolini to fulfill his promise of an early release of the fourth installment.

 Originally it was meant to be a trilogy when the author, Christopher Paolini came out with the first book, Eragon (in 2005) that talked about a small farm boy and his dragon, Saphira and their journey together in a fantasy land called AlagaĆ«sia. The series then saw Eragon, the dragon rider, fight his way out and emerge victorious in book two (Eldest, published in 2006) and the much hyped book three (Brisingr, published in late 2008) which I got on the very first day of the Indian release. They say the length of the third book grew and it had to be separated into two parts and many of those parts would  be integrated in the fourth.
With a first print run of 2.5 million copies, Paolini is finally making a come back to finish the story in the last installment of the inheritance cycle with 704 pages of promising fantasy on November 8, 2011. But at what cost?

A very young author, just after graduation penning down a worldwide best-seller. It's not what we see on a daily basis and yet to risk it and put your goodwill on the line is an act that is unpardonable.  Paolini takes almost four years to get the fourth one out, and that too when he is backed by a publishing contract. I doubt many would actually go back to the summary of the book to brush up the story until now in eager anticipation of the fourth book. And many perhaps won't even consider the fourth book, simply because they have had enough of the puerile author who could not shake his pen for his fans with the evident excuse of laziness, shrouding his creativity. Of course, it would take a great deal of marketing to convince people to give it a try but I guess the hype around the international release will take care of it. For the time being, Paolini has to put up his baby-like face and go on an apologizing spree and talk to his fans, answer their queries and convince them to finish reading the cycle. After all, that too is marketing!


April 22, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: 'Trapped wings Open Sky' by Nisha Arppit

This is one of those stories that straight away get down to business. Sketching away tales of its secondary characters in the beginning, it introduces the protagonist, Preet somewhere in the early middle of the book. Preet, a small town girl with big dreams in her eyes, went gone against her family wishes and decided to obtain an MBA and then landed up a big, fat corporate job. This is the story of an average girl and her quest for discovering her true identity in life. Preet thinks she can manage everything on her own pretty well, that she's grown up and mature enough to do so.

 And then start life's challenges. With lecherous seniors, hard to meet targets,  a wavering love life and a boss that seems hell bent on finding excuses to humiliate her, Preet faces it all and surprisingly, stands tough. Both of her room mates have their own problems in life. One has a boyfriend who is cheating on her and the other can't seem to trust in relationships and ends up attempting suicide. And Preet like a true friend s there for both of them even though their behaviour towards her has been anything but friendly in the beginning.

 Aman, her colleague and crush from her workplace gives her mixed reactions to the fact that she adores him completely. Preet's helping nature, true friendship, trust in relationships, believe in love and a hope of a better future are aspects that are nicely portrayed in the story. The author delivers some deep messages and she does it without getting philosophical, in fact through little incidents in the protagonist's life and that forms the USP of this book. The characterisation is decent and the only major flaw is the editing in some areas, for example substituting 'ask/tell' for 'say'. The author has a wonderful expressive narrative, combining both, first person POV's and third person POV's. This is a book about life, as it is, complete with the little blessings and little challenges, we all face. Nothing fanciful, not even fiction perhaps as such things happen daily around us, in the society that we live.

A quick read, it tends to portray some amount of negativity and a little confusion in parts and pieces but overall, a promising book that might show us the way to live our 'taken for granted' lives. It does manage to bring a smile on your face as you turn over the last page. I would go with a 3/5 for this breezy read.

Get this novel from Flipkart.


April 10, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: 'Legally, Lovingly Yours' by Abhishek Bose

I was quite skeptical about this book when the writer contacted me to review it. He being a first-time writer and quite young at that, I could see a bit of my old self in him and hence I obliged. Was I disappointed? Read on to know.
The book is about Abhishek Banerjee, a Bengali youth like the author himself, who lands up in one of the topmost law colleges of India, Animus in Dehradun. He is a simple, down to earth guy who believes in himself, is always there for his friends and is shy around his lady love, Lavanya Singhania, who does not even acknowledge him for the major part of the book.

Their love story stars with Abhishek bumping into Lavanya on the very first day of college and she in turn reprimanding him for not looking ahead while walking. The poor guy confesses his feelings to Anshul, the only guy he knows then from his school days but crafty Anshul uses that information to cut him out of Lavanya's life and push himself in as her boyfriend. Our hero is hurt but wins over the heroine through his over-used intellect and by winning numerous competitions and by being there for her when her boyfriend supposedly abandons her for a booze party with his friends. And finally how the two (Abhishek and Lavanya) end up together, forms the highlight of the book. Abhishek makes some great friends in his college and they mingle with each other in a group that goes by the name of DU (Diversity Unified).

The characters are real-life, easy to relate and many of us can find ourselves within the protagonist (though I doubt on the soft-heartedness). The protagonist feels endearing at times, the way he does things unselfishly without expecting anything in return. With a simple storyline, without much twists and turns, the author writes in a candid manner. Sometimes he uses words which are not at all necessary in the context and the method of going into flashback is a little flawed. But most of the times, he writes smoothly with smooth dialogue that wavers off a bit in the middle. What the author does well is give us a glimpse into the student life of law colleges which I believe is a first after the IIT-IIM motley in the stores. The struggle of studies, warm friendships and heightened excitement of various competitions are well laid out in the story. The book does not leave much to imagination right from the start and the simple plot is easily predictable. A little slow to take-off, the book does quite well to involve you in the end and is an easy read. Overall, it's a decent attempt by a first-timer author and I for one know he will go on to write better stuff in his own unique candid style.

Get it from Flipkart.


April 9, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: 'Chanakya's chant' by Ashwin Sanghi

To say I was excited to read this novel, would be an understatement. As Ashwin Sanghi's earlier work, 'The Rozabal Line' ended up being in my top reads for 2010, I had higher expectations from this book. The story alternates with every chapter, one set in ancient India (around 340 BC or 2300 years back) and the other in modern India.And that's what the book sets out to do, merging the two Indias, to prove that Chankaya's thoughts are as prevalent today as they were in ancient times. The book as the name suggests is about the main character, Chanakya and his strategies to unify Bharat after the king of Magadha, Dhanananda murders Chanakya's father, the renowned teacher, Chanak. He dreams of a unified Bharat under the rule of his disciple, Chandragupta Maurya, whom history has shown to be a great king but he merely remains a pawn in the hands of Chanakya, his guru.

Fast forward to the modern day world and you have Pandit Gangasagar, who is supposedly reborn as Chanakya and one fine day comes across a mantra that if recited for a certain number of days, would give the person access to Chanakya's power. Gangasagar too has lost his father at an early age and then struggles in life to make it big in the world of politics and when he does, he too backs a young protege, Chandini Gupta, who goes on to become the PM of India as shown in the prologue. And the book is pretty much a route to Chanakya's and Gangasagar's aspirations. Both of them keep strategising all day with some wonderful intellect and set up some devious plans to reach their dreams. On one end, Chanakya does not have any qualms in using his childhood sweetheart to usurp the power of Magadha and on the other hand, Gangasagar does not give a hoot before killing the two men that Chandini loved. Lying, cheating, lust and deceit are only tools to aid their greater purpose. If you analyze the smooth cover, you get the drift of the story there and then.

Ashwin Sanghi pretty much uses his trademark style of narration, carefully introducing each and every nook and corner of the story, sometimes with too much technicality that an average reader would find difficult to grasp. Apart from the main characters of Chanakya and Pandit Gangasagar, the others are not so strongly sketched and the main ones for most of their part, keep devising strategies all the time, some which one fails to understand the purpose of. Combining business with politics and media with the dirty P, Ashwin Sanghi accurately describes the nexus between such operations. I would have loved to see other shades of Chanakya as intellect and strategy were already always associated with him. Ashwin Sanghi as usual has researched the subject well before writing and goes on to provide a long list of references towards the end, something not many writers do, even in historical fiction.

Some of the events are inspired from the real life and the author handles them craftily, taking lessons from real-life politics and scams and at times, even getting into the accounting aspects of it. Secondary characters form a major crux of the story. Though weakly portrayed, they end up being at the receiving end from both the main characters in the story and sometimes you end up thinking whether any protagonist can be so 'perfect'. The little flaw that brings them down comes only in the end and that too as a very minute aspect. Overall, I enjoyed the story but not as much as Ashwin Sanghi's debut novel 'The Rozabal Line.' A decent book with a some great research work lends this book a strong backbone. Read it for that and more. A 3.5/5 for Ashwin Sanghi's second novel.

Get it from Flipkart.