Gripping, Fast-paced, Engrossing, and very Entertaining - Red Jihad: Batttle for South Asia

Thursday, October 25, 2012 Dr. Vishaal Bhat 1 Comments

Good read, a bit idealistic and a very filmy ending, but nevertheless gripping and plausible!!
Title: Red Jihad: Battle for South Asia
Language: English
Author: Sami Ahmad Khan
Genre:  Suspense and Thriller
Publisher:  Rupa Publications India Pvt Ltd. (2012)
ISBN: 8129119870
ISBN-13: 9788129119872 , 978-8129119872
Binding: Paperback
Price: Rs. 295 (Buy from Flipkart for Rs.227)
Pages: 280

Book Synopsis:  What will happen if the fanatic rebels of two countries with a bitter past join forces? What if Pakistan has transformed into a democracy and India in to a military regime? In Sami Ahmad Khan's gripping novel, we meet the above scenarios and the idea of World War III.

Review Summary: The kind of novel I personally love to read, Red Jihad: Battle for South Asia, is the kind of book, that even with all its flaws is un-put-down-able! I received the book at 4 in the evening and I had finished reading it by 7 P.M.

Detailed Review:

The novel is set in the year 2014, and follows a series of events that seem entirely plausible given the way things are moving along today! (The author has also pointed out how the events today are playing out eerily similar to some aspects of what he had written before they happened!!)

The premise of the book is what would happen if the two major "revolutionary" rebel/fanatic groups i.e. the Naxalites of India and the Pakistan Taliban join forces. Not entirely impossible right? Heck! There are even a few news stories recently of how this may have already happened.

In the novel, this happens some time in early 2014 when Pakistan has transformed itself in to a Democratic republic and the word "Islamist State" has been removed from its constitution. The Taliban have all but lost out in the internal war and even the people of Pakistan have stopped supporting the war-mongers. The Army has been tamed and the new generation of leaders are stable in thought and measured in their action.  This last aspect of the novel is what I found to be too idealistic and though not impossible to think about, unlikely to happen any time soon!

The India of 2014 on the other hand is ruled by a young politician, left-leaning even (Shades of Rahul Gandhi anyone?) and has become a self-reliant country, with peace along its borders. China has formed a peaceful alliance and Pakistan has stopped insurgency. The Government has appointed a tough Army chief who has started routing the naxals and has made the Naxalite leaders run for cover in to neighbouring Nepal.

Indian Naxalite Agyaat ties up with Pakistani extremist Yasser Basheer to hijack a Top Secret Indian missile, Pralay and use it on India, thereby deflecting the government’s focus from the Red corridor.   The mini crisis that sets in following the hijack of the missile, sees the Army chief in a coup against the democratic government and the setting up of a thrilling mid part of the novel which you hope never ends!

The missile is launched and seems headed towards New Delhi and the country braces for maximum damage. But when the missile intriguingly changes course and lands on Lahore instead of Delhi, the consequences change drastically. Pakistan wages war against her neighbor despite the Indians pleading innocence and the possibility of a nuclear war looms large.

How the threat plays out forms a good part of the rest of the novel and the twists and turns that the author has managed to blend in to the story makes for wonderful reading.

Positives:
Gripping, Fast-paced, Engrossing, and very Entertaining. This book will hopefully spawn a new generation of novels in India that deal with the politics and foreign affair thrillers, a space that is waiting to be explored for the Indian audience.
 
For a debut book, Sami Ahmad Khan has done a brilliant job. He has left no stone unturned to ensure that the plot of the book keeps a reader on his mental-toes throughout. The story goes from past events to future events seamlessly and characters of the book are well defined and have been intelligently handled.

Similarity with current day events make the storyline entirely plausible and the author tries to avoid generalizations and speaks of specifics, which shows that he has done a lot of research into the events.  

Negatives:  The author shows off his command over the English language throughout the book. However the use of complex words could have been curtailed as it does throw away the casual reader a little. Simple easy daily language would have been better. 

The ending appears to be all too contrived and a bit too idealistic with a scenario that is straight out of  Hollywood potboiler with conspiracy theories.                                                     


How the Naxalites come to know of this Top Secret missile is never revealed and is left up to the reader to put two and two together and come up with the answer. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but does create a minor hiccup.

Who will enjoy this? -  People who love to unearth conspiracies hidden in the daily news items, Fiction book lovers, political thrill seekers and almost everyone who likes to have a good read.

Who may not enjoy this? -  Romance novel enthusiasts :P


Buy or not to buy? - Definite Buy! Flipkart is currently running a Rs. 68 discount on the cover price of Rs. 295. Buy Red Jihad: Battle for South Asia here.



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The Krishna Key - A Poor Man's Da Vinci Code

Friday, October 05, 2012 Dr. Vishaal Bhat 4 Comments

Readable, but not up to the mark!
Title: The Krishna Key
Language: English
Author: Ashwin Sanghi
Genre:  Suspense and Thriller
Publisher: Westland (2012)
ISBN: 9381626685
ISBN-13: 9789381626689, 978-9381626689
Binding: Paperback
Price: Rs. 250 (Buy from Flipkart for Rs.175)
Pages: 475

Synopsis: The story begins with a murder and moves along at a rather decent rate bringing in new characters almost every 2-3 pages. The author tries to impart a bit of knowledge on the life of the hindu mythological god, Krishna, hence the title. Those readers who have read Dan Brown's - The Da Vinci Code and many other novels along similar plot should take this novel with a pinch of salt.In the end the novel is filled with cliches and plot loop holes that draw away from any positives the book has.

Detailed Review:
Before I begin, let me say that I am a huge fan of thrillers and suspense novels, especially those that have a relook at some historical conspiracies. That is the reason why The Da Vinci Code, despite many of its factual inaccuracies and fallacies remains very close to my heart. When, I received a mail from the BlogAdda book review program that I've been lucky to be selected for reviewing The Krishna Key, i was thrilled! I had gone through the synopsis of the book on the offer page and was immediately struck by the similar plot lines (not exactly similar) between The Krishna Key and The Da Vinci Code.

The Krishna Key exhibits Ashwin Sanghi's profound love for history, which is seen in the authors previous couple of books - Chanakya's Chant and Rozabal Line. (The book dedicates 5 pages to the references and research material with detailed links to the sources for those interested!)

Storyline: The story starts in an interesting note with the murder of Anil Varshney by Taarak Vakil, who since his childhood was made to believe that he is the final avatar of Vishnu- the Kalki by his guru, addressed as Mataji. Due to circumstantial evidence, the suspicion for the murder points to Anil Varshey's close friend and almost brother - Ravi Mohan Saini a historian and Krishna enthusiast. The remainder of the story is an account of the journey of Saini with his doctoral student Priya, the hide and seek between the different characters and a set of carefully designed twists and turns.
The story has its moments where it gets dull and cliched with plot loop holes and places where it gently blows away the mind. Interspersed in between are stories of Lord Krishna from his birth to his death and his teachings. The story shifts from Rajasthan to Delhi to Gujarat and Mumbai to the Himalayas, Somnath and finally Agra. We are told about the significance of each of these places  with respect to the life and times of Lord Krishna.

Positives: A lot of research has been done by the author to present the story in a sensible and accurate way so that the timeline is feasible and looks realistic. The first half of the book is almost a lecture on the life of Krishna but has been creatively portrayed with historic interpretation and interlinking of several distanced unrelated fragments to form a rational whole. 
Negatives: Plot loopholes abound with the Author/publisher misplacing names , especially towards the end of the novel. In places the book appears as though it is a history lesson and that you're back in a class room. The narrative slacks in the middle third of the book, especially when you're just beginning to find enthusiasm to read the book! The climax of this novel reminded me of 'The Lost Symbol' by Dan Brown. The novel builds the excitement and reaches a climax where it disappoints simply by being anti-climactic. In a way it was very disappointing.

Who will enjoy this? - History buffs, People who liked Dan Brown's series - The Da Vinci Code, The Lost symbol.

Who may not enjoy this? -  People who liked Dan Brown's series - The Da Vinci Code, The Lost symbol!! (Yes :D) and Religious nuts.

Buy or Don’t Buy? –  It's a tough one to rate this book actually. On one hand the book is well researched and a genuine attempt at a historical thriller, however it does fall short of my expectations. Given a choice, I may buy it but probably not at the original cost.  Flipkart at the moment is even giving a Rs.75  discount on the cover price. It’s a steal at Rs.175/-.

I’ll leave you to it.

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