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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Digi Novel !!

  

When a book is authored by the creator of CSI (which is a personal favorite of mine since 2006 when I first encountered some episodes); it doesn't take long to jump into it and devour it quickly. But once I started reading it, I realized it was not so simple. I read while I travel and I prefer to remain off-line when travelling (or when away from laptop) so I don't really use internet on my phone. This book makes you go to a website every 50 pages or so to experience the story in a different media (audio-video).

This book is a new concept of DigiNovel … a multi-platform experience that moves the reader from passages in the books to videos on Level26.com … so you read the book and watch engaging videos shot in the style of a movie. This website is an interactive extension of the books series (a trilogy) and put together they form a "Digi-novel".

What I find interesting is the marriage of the 2 media (text + video) to create a more engaging experience for the 'reader'. I was reading a physical book but imagine reading the iPad/Tablet/online version of the same book where the story is interspersed with videos. This could easily be taken to the next level by introducing some interactive elements. Hope this marks the beginning of an interesting genre of 'reading'.  

 The interactivity aspect reminds of the 'Make Your Own Adventure/Story' kind of books I had read in my school days. The story would move a few pages and then you would be offered a choice / a decision. The choices would lead you to different pages in the book where after a few pages you would come to a decision point again. This gave the books the feature of having literally 'different' storylines and you could read the same story again and again with slightly different storyline. It had a high level of interactivity. DigiNovels could bring back that era of books again with greater ease.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Design of Indian Currency Coins

My father often complains nowadays that it is not easy any longer to identify the coins just by a mere glance. You really got to look carefully and actually read the numbering and lettering on the coin, which is not exactly readable either.

He often wonders why the Government of India / mint not use the coin designs from 2 decades ago. I remember the different coins that I have seen in my childhood. The different coins had different shapes and sizes which made them easily identifiable. Look at this picture here.

On the contrary; today the 1, 2, 5 rupee coins are all round and shiny with similar styling. Even the 10 rupee coin is round; the saving grace being its two-tone (two-color) design which makes it stand apart from the others.

I guess till the year 2000, the coins of 1, 2, 5 were still pretty identifiable with different physical features. 1 rupee coin was round, 2 rupee coin has ridges and 5 rupee coin was smaller and thicker with smaller ridges on the periphery.

I do understand that manufacturing the new round coins with similar styling might be the easiest thing from manufacturing point of view but what I don't agree to is the need to have all similar looking coins. Over the past decade, the feel (touch and weight) of the coins is also becoming similar. I am sure this must be posing a problem for the visually impaired too.

My dad keeps saying that the government should reconsider having the coins for 1, 2, 5, 10 in different shapes so that it is easy to identify the coins at a single glance or even at a single touch. Hope the mint gives this a thought.

Here are some pictures of the coins ... have a look and you would know what I am talking about (when i say coins of different shapes)
 
 
 
 
You can have a look at several of the old coins designs here http://www.rbi.org.in/currency/museum/c-rep.html 
Hope someone connected with the Mint or RBI or Coin Designing authority reads this ....

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Chain Reaction of Change

 

A single change can trigger a host of other changes in life and hence we should always be careful what we wish for. A decision to change one thing can change several others … in fact it might even trigger a chain reaction of changes in life.

Case in point: My recent change in job. Decided it was time to switch jobs (triggered by a chance opportunity that came up).

When I took the decision to change jobs; I was aware of some big changes that this decision would bring to my life. What I missed out on was the several small changes that would also be part and parcel of this change package.

So let me try and list down the changes that a new job has brought in my case (a part of this list will probably be generic enough to apply to You too if you decided to take the leap).

1.  Change of Scenery – From my office in Pune with a lush green scenery around to this current office with a concrete and glass jungle around with even a factory chimney jutting out into the landscape nearby. Someday I will post a pic of that chimney here.

2.  Change in Travel – For the past 2 years, I have been travelling the Mumbai-Dubai route by air and Mumbai-Pune route by Bus and Train. Now with the office in Mumbai, I am travelling by the infamous Mumbai Local Train. I will be back to regular daily travel by local trains after a gap of 7 years and that too in the direction of peak traffic in peak hours. It's not easy buddy. Travelling by Mumbai Locals can be a horrifying experience for beginners (after some time, you just get used to it).   

3.  Resting my Passport – My current employer will not send me across borders so no more international travel for me. My passport will get some decent rest after going through immigration stampings for last 7 years. I have flown approximately 50 times in last 7 years and so my passport(s) have been stamped over a 100 times.  

4.  Airport Time – The above also means that I have spent over a lot of time in the airport over the past 7 years. Reaching the airport about 3 hours before take-off and getting out approx. 2 to 3 hours after landing; I would have spent nearly 250 hours at airports. Now that will change. I would probably still travel and use the airports, but it would be for local national air travel where one can reach about an hour in advance and get out of airport within 30 minutes. I guess, the airport time itself will reduce to one-third although I don't really know how frequently will I be travelling around. 

5.  Travel Time – Whether it was Mumbai-Dubai or Mumbai-Pune; both of these journeys were approx. 5-6 hour journeys (home to home). Travelling in Dubai was by road (extremely comfortable) while travelling the Dubai-Pune sector was by road (uncomfortable at most times). NOW, as mentioned earlier, it is going to be the extremely uncomfortable Mumbai Locals. This will also impact my reading since I have always utilized my travelling time for reading.   

6.  Family Interaction Time – All that travel meant that I spend half my time abroad and half in India at home in past 7 years. I have remained away from my parents for a period of up to 6 months. Now, office being in Mumbai, I will get more time with family and will not be away from them for extended periods. 

7.  Weekdays and Weekends – For the past 9 months, I have been working between the three cities of Mumbai, Dubai and Pune. While in India, I would visit Pune office twice or thrice a week and the remaining days I would 'work from home'. I got to spend time at home and weekdays often seemed like weekends. Especially because of Fridays and Sundays.  Friday is working in India but a holiday in Dubai (UAE) where all of my clients were. So there would be extremely little to do. It would seem like a weekend. On the other side, Sunday is a working day in Dubai and I would have exchanges on email with clients. This would seem like a working day. Now … weekdays would be weekdays; weekends would be weekends.

8.  Dress Code – Being a Consultant, I am used to formal wear in office and even wearing suits at client locations. But I had avoided Tie's over the years wearing them only on rare occasions. The first day in my new office and I receive a shocker that here, it is Tie on all days from Monday to Thursday. The Friday dressing concept that I have enjoyed over the years (Jeans and T's on Friday) exists in a very different form here. Business Casuals is what is acceptable on Fridays which DOES NOT include Jeans and T's. 

9.  Wardrobe – All my existing shirts have been rendered useless for most part of office life. And this is because of the clause to wear Ties. Almost all of my shirts are not suitable to be worn with Tie's since their collar buttons simply don't 'button-up'. So … I have to buy / get stiched a whole new set of shirts to wear from Monday to Thursday. Also, the need for shirts in white or light colors means the darker shirts that I have are rendered useless from Monday to Thursday. So … its time for a wardrobe makeover !

10.  Change in Laptop – I have been using a Dell (personal) for past 7 years and used a Fujitsu laptop for past 2 years. Now, I get a Lenovo ThinkPad in my new company. This laptop has a slightly different keyboard layout which is taking a bit of a time to get used to. It actually has a physical button for wifi and I was struggling with wifi connectivity before the IT helpdesk gentleman told me about it. The keyboard has a different placement for the Ctrl key which is a commonly used key creating a problem for me. I am sure I will get used to it and then working on my personal laptop will seem difficult.

11.  Reading Material – From fiction to academic study material.  I have already blogged about it. In fact, this first week in new job and I am undergoing several mandatory trainings where I am reading screen after screen of material trying to absorb it. Also, there are a lot of new things in this job and I would have to 'learn' a lot of them by actually reading (make that 'studying').

 

Well … so you see. A change of job has changed so many things in my life.

Some for good, some for worse, some yet to be discovered

 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Book Review: The Clock Work Man by William Jablonski


Yet another book from Blog Adda to review and this one was a very interesting read right from page 1 primarily because it was written in first person as a biographical narration of a 'clockwork man'. 'The Clockwork Man' by William Jablonski was yet another new author I got to try thanks to BlogAdda's Book Review Program.  Strangely, wikipedia did not have an entry for William Jablonski nor for the Clockwork Man novel.  
Strangely, the clockwork man is not referred to as a 'Robot' in the novel. The reason would be that robots have always been considered as 'electrical/electronic' contraptions while the mechanical man in our story is a purely mechanical 'contraption' devoid of any electronics but instead based on clock work and is designed by an expert creator of artistic clocks.  
The way the clockwork man describes the things around him … the creator, his kids, his relationship with them, the way people behave and react around him (in his city and even in distant lands), the way he perceives the human world and their emotions… it's all very interesting and offer a different perspective of life. There is a break in the story and when the story resumes, the clockwork man views the world with a different perspective and it is equally interesting to see our world from a third-party perspective.
By accentuating the feelings and thoughts of the mechanical being; the author indirectly makes us aware of what we are losing out and missing out in life; things very special to human beings which we ignore and don't enjoy.
In the story, we find that our clockwork man is biased and more attentive to the little daughter of his master. It reminded me of the movie Bicentennial Man. The story moves forward with our clockwork man getting a little intimate with the daughter … and then … the daughter is gone. She is gone from the story, gone from their lives. The story then takes a break when he attempts 'suicide' by not winding himself. When the story resumes, the setting has changed and over a century has passed since he went into 'mechanical coma'. The clockwork man has several unsolved mysteries and his life becomes a continuous process of discovery about himself as well as about the new world around him.
It is interesting to read about how the clockwork man 'feels' although he is supposed to be devoid of feelings. He himself dismisses some of his feelings as defects in his clockwork mechanism. A beautiful example being him losing consciousness of time when looking at something very beautiful (something we humans can easily identify with) but our clockwork man attributes the 'loss of time' or 'losing track of time' to some mechanical defect. We (the reader) are left to wonder if it is indeed mechanical or has the mechanical man been infused with 'life' and 'consciousnesses' just like humans. Another example is when he sees/observes/'feels' something that is contrary to what is 'master' has taught him (and has a feeling that the Master was wrong). THAT is a defect according to him (a very unacceptable defect).  
An interesting aspect of the story was the use of characters like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford who visit the 'Master' and inspect the clockwork man. It would have been a stunt had the 2 of them appeared just for a visit, but they are involved with the story beyond the visit and have bearing upon the course of the story; making it a pretty interesting read. Hitler is yet another connection in the story although the name never appears in the story.
The book is an extremely interesting read as we see the world from the point of view of the clockwork man. This also means that he narrates perfectly emotional moments in a completely factual and matter-of-fact manner but at the same time inciting emotions in the reader. The success of the writer comes out in this quality of the narrative.
The only thing that is disappointing about the story is the end/climax. It is pretty anti-climactic. All through the last 30% of the story, I was wondering how the story would end and was tempted more than several times to jump to the last few pages and read them. Unfortunately, the story ends kind of abruptly and we are left wondering if the author was given a 20 minute ultimatum to finish the story and submit the manuscript … and the author just managed to complete it (like a student writes furiously trying to complete his exam paper while the teacher is pulling at the answer paper)
Wish the story had ended on a better note (and I don't mean a happy ending; Just a more interesting one). Also, I will try to catch up some other novel which is return in first person.
This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at  BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Unemployed Weekend

I always wanted a break between two jobs but somehow it did not happen 2 years ago. It did not happen even now.
So I am left with only a measly duration of 2 days … only one weekend of being unemployed !
Wish I had a longer break ... at least a week … which would have translated into 9 days. But then, I did take a weeklong vacation last month so its OK.
So if you are wondering about what I did to enjoy my unemployed weekend; well … Saturday was spent recovering from sleep deprivation of past 3 days where I got something like 4, 5, 6 hours of sleep only. So Saturday was spent in sleeping.
Well … that sets the pace of my unemployed weekend J

Addendum: I had some high hopes of enjoying Sunday but they were pretty much literally ‘washed away’ by the torrential rains that raged across the day. The plan to go out with the entire family and spend some fun time was reduced to a restaurant visit for dinner in the evening.  

I was supposed to get documents photocopied/printed in preparation for my new job as well as get myself shot (passport photo with blue background) but with the rains … I couldn’t even imagine going for the shot.

So thus was my eventful/uneventful unemployed weekend.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Fool

 

 
In the old days all great emperors always had one fool in their court (often called the Court Jester).
They had many wise men, counselors, ministers and prime ministers, but always one fool.

 

Why?--because there are things so-called wise men will not be able to understand, that only a foolish man can understand--because the so-called wise are so foolish that their cunningness and cleverness closes their minds. A fool is simple, and was needed because many times the so-called wise would not say something because they were afraid of the emperor. A fool is not afraid of anybody else, he will speak whatsoever the consequences.

 

This is how fools act--simply, without thinking what the result will be. A clever man always thinks first of the result, then he acts. Thought comes first, then action. A foolish man acts; thought never comes first.

 

Whenever someone realizes the ultimate, he is not like your wise men. He cannot be. He may be like your fools, but he cannot be like your wise men.

 

<<Extracted from an email forward>>

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Paradox …

 

 

Remember the movie Minority Report. Keep that in mind (if you have seen it and) Consider this …

 

You can see future using the system and prevent the crime. You have created the system and are aware of the people who are trying to discredit it. The system represents you and anything going wrong with the system or the system getting discredited would destroy you and your ideology.

 

The system comes up with Your own name as a 'future murderer' and now you are in a fix. You know you have no intention of killing the man you don't even know so you are innocent. But if you claim that, then you are saying that the system is wrong. That destroys your work.

 

So do you go ahead and commit the murder and destroy yourself to keep the systemyou're your own name and ideology alive.

OR

Do you go ahead and prove the system wrong, discredit your own work and destroy yourself anyway.

 

Paradoxical situation … isn't it ?

 

Now consider the 1000's of people whom you have sent to jail/death because your system 'predicted' them as criminals. Could the system have been similarly 'wrong' about them? Have you sent innocent people to jail/death???

 

Paradox again … isnt it ?

 

And finally, the fact that you have been punishing people for crimes they haven't committed? Isn't that wrong? But then if you did not punish them, they might have gone ahead and committed the crime …

 

Paradox again … isnt it ?

 

 

Such was the genius of Philip K Dick that he was able to weave all these paradoxes into a single short story spanning 30 pages.

 

Hats off to the Sci-Fi writers of the century … they were pretty awesome!!


 

Trivia 1 - Philip K Dick also wrote 'Paycheck' which was made into yet another superb Hollywood movie. Around 8 other stories by him became Hollywood movies over the years.  


Trivia 2 - While I was writing this post, a casual glance to the newspapers front page told me that a celebrated sci-fi author Ray Bradbury passed away a few days ago. 


Monday, June 11, 2012

The Power of Short Stories

 

I saw the movie Paycheck some 6 year ago and loved it. The basic premise and the way the story moved forward from one clue to another. While doing some net surfing today, I realized that Philip K Dick was a pretty famous and celebrated author and about 10 of his stories (not novels, just short stories) had been converted into Hollywood movies. One look at the list of movie and I was impressed. Minority Report and Paycheck were very much in this list and I was bowled over by the premise and plot of both these movie.

 

Well, I jus couldn't wait. I searched the internet and found both the short stories - Paycheck and Minority Report. So I am reading them now. It's amazing. How a complex and intriguing tale was written in the form of a 30 page short story.

 

Over the past year, I have become more of a short story reader (while I still read the 2-3 novels every month) and more I read, the more I realize that the authors of those times were wonderful creatures who fit in a story in a few pages. The trend now a days is to write long novels and publish them and back it up with multi-million marketing blitzkrieg to earn millions.

 

I have read the short stories by Canon Doyle (the entire series of 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories), the Feluda series and other short stories by Satyajit Ray. I remember reading magazines like Chandamama and Nandan in my childhood which had a lot of short stories. I have always enjoyed short stories but as I grew up, reading moved from short stories to novels. 

 

I guess the age of the short stories was first over shadowed by the short novels / novellas / longer short stories spanning about 80-100 pages ... short novels which might interest the teens and people and which were commercially sale'able independently; which was great and profitable for the publisher as well as the author). Slowly the interest in novellas increased and as people began to spend on 'single stories', novellas gave way to novels and the stories got longer. Commercialization meant that publishers want the authors to write longer novels so that they can charge a higher fee from the reader for the same story.

 

Of course, the market maturity also counts. I see a lot of 200-300 page novels getting published in India which cost in the range 100 to 200 ... but most of the American novels are in the range of 400 - 700 pages and cost 250 to 600 ... The spending-ability as well as spending-desire of the customer is also guiding the economics of book publishing ... The customer who is buying an English novel at 500 bucks is not readily willing to spend 300 on an Indian one. Everyone wants value for their monies and books are no different.  

 

As Indian reader begins to spend more and more on Indian authors, the publishers will also push their authors to write thicker novels which will cost more meaning more money for the publishers and the author.

 

But wouldn't this also affect Quality ... OF COURSE IT WILL...

 

I read the first 4 Harry Potter novels way back in Jan 2002 ... loved them ... when the 5th one came; it was thicker than the earlier ones. It was good. The 6th one thicker than the 5th one and it was not that great (my personal opinion) and the last one ... I did not like it at all. It was as if the author was writing based on guidelines and deadlines received from the publisher rather than being guided by own thoughts and ideas.

 

I noticed something similar in a novel by one of my fav authors - Matthew Reilly. The first 2 books of his Jack West Jr. series were simply awesome and amazing (just like his other works) ... the third book felt like a disaster. It felt like being pushed to complete a wonderful dinner in 10 minutes flat. You know the stuff is good but you just can't enjoy. The story seemed too cramped up and felt like he was forced to write it. He wasn't the usual self in that book.

 

So definitely the quality is getting impacted

 

But coming back to short stories ... where do we find short stories NOW? 

Who is writing amazing short stories around these days? 

All I find is short stories written several decades ago.

 

Is the power of short stories lost in the world of commercial literature??? 

 

Friday, June 08, 2012

Ability and Confidence …

 

A discussion with a colleague turned into a soul searching session questioning our perspective towards our career and what makes us wonder if we should begin to disrupt the normal course of life and bring about a change.

 

We were just discussing randomly about my impending change (change of company, that is) when we started talking about the motives of change. Incidentally, in either of our cases, Money was not the driving force. We hadn't taken the leap because we were offered a bomb of a salary package. In fact, in his case, he was being offered a bomb to stay back. He was offered several privileges too. But he still decided to move on from his company (which is the biggest brand in its category, the largest player in that field)

 

We both moved because we wanted to disrupt the status quo. We were both in good jobs, good companies, having a pretty decent pay package, well respected in our area of work and considered the best in the company for the particular role/profile. BUT … we needed a change.

 

After doing the thing which excited us most … for several years ... Even THAT excitement had turned to becoming monotonous. It was time, we felt, to bring in something else. The risk of disrupting a stable life was there but the strive within for a change made us take the 'leap'. Something else also did ….

 

My friend put the question to me … "What is that is most important for us to sustain our Career?  Is it association to a big and stable Brand / Company … OR is it your skill set?"

 

Performance is a given here. Unless you perform, you will be unceremoniously shown the exit.

 

A big and stable brand can ensure that you have a job for long and you would be continuously recognized and rewarded. But then, even the biggest of brands can fall prey to recession and lay off people by the thousands. Dependency in this case is on the company.  

 

A strong skill set can keep you afloat irrespective of your company. Whether the company stays or shuts down; your skill set will keep you employable. Dependency in this case is on your own skill set and not the company so this is probably a better situation. BUT what if your skill set goes out of fashion; or it becomes redundant or out-dated. Technology is moving ahead at a pace we can't really keep pace with.

 

Keeping these in mind, I came up with the thought that the only things needed for a person to survive in the career and even life in general is ABILITY and CONFIDENCE.

 

The ability to learn a new skill set / new capability / embrace change ... and the self-confidence to go ahead and take the bold step

 

Any person with these two will tide over any circumstances.
 
.... This also reminds me of something which was one of the first things I learnt from Mr. Muralidharan Jayaram (my boss at Satyam) .... The 2 keys of Professional Life are 2 C's ... Competence and Credibility. Create your Credibility in the minds of your stakeholders / people around you and prove your competence.
 
 

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

May Reading – Part 3

 

21. Of Course, I Love you by Durjoy Dutta & Maanvi Ahuja

When I picked this one, my expectations were not much. With a lot of Indian novels coming up, most looked like time-pass rather than serious fiction stuff which would leave me impressed. This one turned out just the same but on the whole I enjoyed reading it.

I read this across 2 days and enjoyed the minor twists and turns of the story of a playboy kind of guy who is in and out of relationships and keeps messing up things in his life. His various kinds of relationships with girls are an interesting read. I am sure there would be quite a population who would identify with the character (not me though). The novel does have an element of veiled eroticism with references to the several escapades of our protagonist with the various girls in his life including too many references to the assets of various female characters. The book also reinforces the myth that 'ek ladki ladka kabhi dost nahin ho sakte'. I am sure the engineering student crowd (or the recent graduate) would like this book.

A light read. I enjoyed reading although I wouldn't say I liked the book.

 

22. Sherlock Exploits: The Adventure of the Gold Hunter by Adrian Doyle & John Carr

A strange death has occurred where people suspect murder and even have a suspect but the problem is that no one can fathom HOW the murder was carried out. A man with a perfectly routine life dies in his bed during the night and there is no trace of any murder … but the man was healthy and would have survived another decade which leads to suspicion … as well as the fact that he had recently changed his will.

 

23. The Three Investigators & the Mystery of the Kidnapped Whale by M V Carrey

The investigator trio find a baby whale stranded on the beach and do their bit to save it from dying of dehydration. When they return to see if they can help it; they realize that the whale is no longer there. Further investigation reveals that the whale has been 'kidnapped' and they even get a mysterious call from a person who offers them the case (of finding the whale) and a fee of a 100 dollars (highest fee offered to them till date).

A little investigation gives them startling revelations and they have a nice under-sea adventure with the whale and even recovering a much-sought-after box from a boat which sank to the bottom of the ocean a few miles off the shore.

 

24. Sherlock Misadventures: Holmes and the Dasher by Anthony Berkeley    

The story itself was not very interesting as much as the style of writing. This particular story was written as if a Sherlock Holmes story was being written by P G Wodehouse in his typical Ask Jeeves style. It was interesting to read this fusion of Sherlock Holmes with Jeeves. The climax was equally surprising in true PGW style.  

 

25. The Three Investigators & the Mystery of the Missing Mermaid by M V Carrey

The investigator trio goes to Venice (of America, not Europe) for some school project and meet a set of pretty interesting people after a child is lost and Jupe finds him. They begin to study the place and its interesting history. There is a 4th July carnival which they are enjoying when the kid disappears again and his companion dog is found dead in a trash can. The trio has a case.

Strangely, a haunted house and a treasure chest get involved in the story making it more and more interesting. The missing mermaid though not at the centre of the mystery is something that provides a BIG clue to the trio in solving the case. If not for the missing mermaid, this novella might have been titled 'the Case of the Trapped Tubby' or 'What Goes Down Must Come Up' … 

 

26. Sherlock Misadventures: The Case of the Missing Lady by Agatha Christie    

Just imagine … Agatha Christie writing a detective novel where Hercule Poirot is NOT the lead character. On the contrary, the leads are 2 detectives who idolize and copy Sherlock Holmes (not Poirot)

An adventurous person who has a dislike for fat women (and consequently his would be mother-in-law) returns from an expedition before schedule and finds his fiancĂ© gone away visiting some friends. Mother-in-law is not very helpful with information and he smells a rat somewhere; after going off on a wild goose chase. He approaches the 2 detectives and asks them to locate the fiancĂ©. In true Sherlock style, the detectives solve the case BUT decide NOT to tell the man about the correct whereabouts of the lady or the reason for her disappearance; since the reason is not just fickle but even funny … and the girl would definitely return to her man after doing appropriate 'damage control' 

 

27. Sherlock Misadventures: The Adventure of the Illustrious Impostor by Anthony Boucher    

Nothing much to write about the story except that it was an example of armchair investigation and deductive reasoning.

 

Series Completion Score: (as of 31st May 2012)

The Three Investigators          36 out of 43

Best of Satyajit Ray                 16 out of 21

Sherlock: Exploits                    02 out of 12

Sherlock: Misadventures        07 out of 33

Total                                      61 out of 109

Monday, June 04, 2012

May Reading – Part 2

Continued from previous post ... 

 

11. The Mayan Prophecy by Steve Alten

21st December 2012 being the date when the Mayan Calendar had predicted the end-of-the-world; I think I should be reading some novels on the Mayan end-of-the-world theme … at least this year.

This novel begins with a paranoid convict who is actually a patient but has ended up in jail. A new intern assigned to him begins her journey of sorting out fact from paranoia. She not only begins to believe in him but also listens to his pleas and helps him escape from the prison.

Together they explore the depths of the ocean and discover an alien ship which is sending out WMD's to different locations in the world; disturbing world peace. Each nation suspecting the other of a nuclear testing/strike leading to the situation of World War 3 … with a point in the story when thousands (literally) Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles are heading towards their targets with ETA of a few minutes

It is an interesting mixing mythology, history, technology, fantasy and science fiction … all in a single package. It is not the best of the genre that I have read but decent enough to make me order another book from the Mayan trilogy so that I can complete the trilogy this year itself - the story being a mix of mythology and sci-fi

 Dunno if it was a coincidence but the book had 666 pages in total J

 

12. Sherlock Misadventures: The Great Pegram Mystery by Robert Barr 

So this becomes my first non-Conan Sherlockian story. The Misadventures is a collection of 33 stories written by a wide range of authors (including some well known names) with characters inspired by Sherlock Holmes. In these stories we will read about numerous characters with names sounding like Sherlock Holmes … which in this first story is Sherlaw Kombs and Whatson.

The Great Pegram Mystery is about a man who was found dead in a train with a bullet hole in his head. Curiously, he had withdrawn some cash earlier that evening and was found in a train which was not en route his destination. Sherlaw Kombs solves the mystery and correctly finds the murder weapon with unerring accuracy BUT … all his conclusions are pretty much wrong.

 

13. Khagam by Satyajit Ray

A story of a man who kills a snake which is in the protection and care of a sage and suffers the consequences of a silent curse by the sage; an interesting tale with an element of horror and weird and magical   

 

14. Sherlock Misadventures: Holmlock Shears Arrives Too Late by Maurice Leblanc 

In this second story from the Misadventures written by Maurice Leblac; a famous thief steals from a wealthy man who has already informed his friends (and the thief) that he suspecting a theft in his house by this famous thief and he has requested Holmlock Shears to look into the case. The theft would happen by the use of underground pathways and hidden passages; the key to which has been stolen from his house and from the public library (the key hidden in the structural maps of the mansion).

The theft occurs and the stolen goods arrive back at the mansion the very next day even before Holmlock arrives. Never the less, he solves the riddle of the secret passage. Interesting part is that on the way to the mansion, Holmlock has a chance encounter with the thief … who displays his expertise and sheer ingenuity in a very peculiar but interesting fashion.

 

15. The Three Investigators & the Mystery of Wandering Caveman - by M V Carrey

A story with an interesting cast of characters and the discovery of the fossilized bones of prehistoric man which promises to bring a fresh new lease to the economy of the small town as the owner of the land on which the fossils were discovered plans to commercialize the opportunity. The 3 investigators take up the case on themselves as the watchman reports seeing a caveman and the bones are stolen.

 

16. Sherlock Exploits: The Adventure of the Seven Clocks by Adrian Doyle & John Carr

With this story, I began reading the 'Exploits of Sherlock Holmes' series written by the youngest son of Conan Doyle … Adrian Doyle along with another author John Carr. They wrote 6 stories together and then another set of 6 were written by Jr. Doyle alone.

The Adventure of the Seven Clocks is about a man who is practically terrified of clocks; so much so that he goes about 2 of them in public. He smashes those clocks which don't even belong to him. Based on the information gathered from his client, who is a lady who has her affections for the terrified youth; and on tid bits of news and information from newspapers; Sherlock Holmes makes his expert deductions and solves the case.

The writing style of Canon Doyle was preserved in this story written by Jr. Doyle and Carr. It was nice to read Sherlock Holmes again.

 

17. Anath Babu's Terror by Satyajit Ray

Anath Babu is a man interested in spirits, ghosts, supernatural and paranormal. He has wandered all across the country staying in haunted houses to experience the paranormal and meet the 'ghosts' but according to his own admission, he has been lucky only on 2 occasions and too more of a kind of feeling rather than an actual ghost or spirit; nothing conclusive. This story is about his third and conclusive encounter of a different kind. Pun intended.

 

18. Sherlock Misadventures: The Adventure of the Clothes-Line by Carolyn Wells  

Imagine Holmes and the likes of his kind getting together to deduce from a curious incident of a lady hanging from the clothes line. It becomes a free for all brainstorming sessions with each participant proposing interesting possibilities and logic behind the hanging lady.

 

19. The Small World of Sadananda by Satyajit Ray

This is a story of a teenager (he is just thirteen) and his own personal private small world of Ants. He has a connection with them. He feels connection with them. The story is about this very connection.

 

20. Sherlock Misadventures: The Unique Hamlet by Vincent Starrett  

A precious priceless original Shakespearean manuscript kind of book studded with precious stones is stolen when loaned by the owner to his friend while the friend was taking the book between their homes which are a few minutes walking distance. The thieves are the very guard who were sent along with him. Holmes deduces the finds the mastermind behind the plan. This story also draws inspiration from the famous 'dog' from Sherlock Holmes original stories which did not bark or do anything unusual; which Sherlock found pretty unusual.

 

To be continued …

Saturday, June 02, 2012

May Reading – Part 1

 

After an astounding April, I was looking forward to May for an equally good reading month since this month also carried the chance of extensive travelling which means extensive reading for me.

A vacation trip to Bangkok & Pattaya (Thailand) … and then the business trips to Dubai (UAE) towards the month end gave me some airport time once again … this meant some good time to read (except let's say the Thai trip where my reading would only infuriate my wife, but she was understanding and allowed me to read the book which I was to review in a week's time)

I began May reading with short stories by Satyajit Ray and Mysterious Traveler Magazine; followed by a Japanese authored novel; followed by a Mayan end-of-the-world themed novel; followed by a short love-story kind of novel by Indian authors; all the while continuing to read my usual reading series/stuff and beginning with the non-Conan Sherlock Holmes short stories.

New author this month: A Japanese author (Keigo Higashino), an American (Steve Alten) and Indian authors (Durjoy Dutta & Maanvi Ahuja) along with several American/European short story writers. The second edition of the Mysterious Traveler Magazine had another set of 6 short stories by 6 different lesser known (literally unknown) authors. I also started the non-Conan Sherlock Holmes stories so they had new authors as well … Adrian Doyle & John Carr for the 'Exploits of Sherlock Holmes' series and new authors for each of the Misadventures series.

The month was pretty satisfactory with plenty of varied reading and a new beginning on Sherlock Holmes front. A splendid reading score of 27 (which results in the reading record flowing across 3 posts).

 

1. Barin Bhowmik's Ailment by Satyajit Ray

Satyajit Ray has used the world of magicians to teach a very simple lesson – Never lose touch with the real thing in your race for instant success and materialistic lifestyle.  

 

2-7. The Mysterious Traveler Magazine - Dec 2005 edition (6 short stories)

Picked up another edition of MTM which had another set of 6 interesting stories across different genres and as with the last edition I read; they were a delightful read. the following 6 stories were part of the Dec 2005 edition:

Suspense - Doctors Appointment by William Ahall

It was a short story revolving around revenge. The whole story seems normal and routine till the penultimate paragraph. The last paragraph of 2 lines turns the tables on you as you get a 4400 Volts electric shock and you keep staring into infinity thinking about what you just read.

Mystery - Lemon Drop with a Twist by Charles Morgan

A murder case is solved based on small observations and a basic principle of 'murderer is often the person with maximum gain'. 

The Macabre - The Woman on the Bed by Robert Forbes

A tale of horror with ghostly spirits involved where it is practically impossible to find out what actually happened to the ghostly spirit as the author leaves the suspense unanswered.

Strange Stories - The Best in the West by Stephen O'sullivan

A story about a man showing off an exceptional knife which effortlessly cuts through most things; A knife so sharp and high-tech that you may even cut yourself and not know about it. The end horrifies and tickles you into a smile at the same time.

Science Fiction - The Infestation at Sulphur Creek by Michael D Cooper

This was Sci-fi stuff about a futuristic colony which has a wasp colony as a threat. The end was confusing to me. I didn't quite get it.  

Mini Mystery - Cop & Robber by the Mysterious Traveler

A cop gets a call about strange lights and movements in a house and reaches the scene; only to find that the house owner has caught the thief. What follows next is a revelation based on the cop's Sherlockian deductions and quick thinking.

 

8. The Maths Teacher, Mr. Pink and Tipu by Satyajit Ray

A simple sweet and strange story of how a child's problem (Math Teacher) is solved by an alien. What can I say more!    

 

9. The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino 

This was a book I received from BlogAdda.com for 'book review' so a detailed review of this one has already been posted in a separate blog post last month. This might practically be the first book I would have read by a Japanese author. It turned out to be surprisingly good. I have reviewed it in a separate blog post earlier last month itself.

 

10. Big Bill by Satyajit Ray

A man with a strange peculiarity … that he does not find anything strange … comes across a strange bird which has been born out of an exceptionally large egg. He brings the bird home as a pet. The bird grows rapidly to a large size and looks pretty ferocious as well as has a very disturbingly ugly scream which scares the wit out of people. The bird is carnivorous and attacks the neighbour's cat. Our man decides to leave it back in the jungle where it begins to wreck havoc on the animals and hunters alike. He visits the bird again after some time to 'cure' it.

 

To be continued …