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Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Review: The Edge of the Machete by Abhisar Sharma

This was the second one that came from Blog Adda for review this month. Reading this one was an interesting experience ... reminding me of 'similar' Robert Ludlum novels
In many ways, 'The Edge of the Machete' by Abhisar Sharma was like a Robert Ludlum novel which has elements of CIA operatives, international espionage and touches of middle-eastern and Russian groups that are involved in international terrorism with a plot that has global implications.
Abhisar's story is set against the backdrop of the Afghanistan-Pakistan (AfPak) region with characters belonging to several militant groups from the region as well as the protagonist coming in from the CIA. I could draw certain parallels with a story by Robert Ludlum.
Besides the elements of Ludlum, Abhisar's writing style also has some Ludlum like characteristics. It felt like reading Ludlum and THAT I think is my biggest compliment for Abhisar.
The story has brutal executions and horrible tortures described so this one is not for the faint-hearted. There is too much of bloodshed (reminding me of Kill Bill)
There is a whole collection of militant groups and their own private agendas … that come together under a common leadership for a greater goal. The experiment is a massive one with warring factions bought under one roof creating a potential explosive situation.
Abhisar has been successful in weaving a nice story with some interesting characters whose personality grows with the novel and you discover them throughout the novel. The central characters each have a demon of their own which they fight internally while they have larger things happening to them as they become famous/infamous across the world. The story has a good pace and events keep unfolding rapidly.
As the novel ended, the climax gives me a feeling that Abhisar has a Jason Bourne like character in his hand and it would be a pity if he doesn't write more on this character which can open up several possibilities of interesting plots. At the core of Bourne series was the internal conflict of Jason Bourne … what happened inside his head. Abhisar has created a character which has similar state of mind.
At the end of the book, I realized that this seems like Book 2 of a trilogy so now I got to lay my hands on the 1st and the 3rd of this series … and hope they live up to the expectations set up by this one.
Note: This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com  ... Participate now to get free books!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Book Review: The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz (The new Sherlock Holmes Novel)

The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz was a surprise find for me. It was delightful news to hear that someone 'officially' got the endorsement / permission to write a Sherlock Holmes novel. Now the thing to be seen is how well the new author has done his job of writing a full length gripping Sherlock Holmes novel keeping the original essence of Conan Doyle writing intact. Anthony has successfully retained the writing style of Conan and it was a pleasure reading it. I also realized that this is the only full length Sherlock Holmes novel since Conan Doyle only wrote 56 short stories and 4 long stories; never did he write a novel with Sherlock Holmes. 
It was nice to see all the usual characters of Sherlock Holmes stories play a role in this novel. Usually, Conan stories did not involve too many of the regulars but Anthony was not restricted by the short story format so he was able to include all the characters – Sherlock Holmes and Watson (of course), their landlady, the Baker Street Irregulars, Mycroft, Lestrade, Watson's Wife … with each given a significant space in the novel.
There are some unique touches in the story telling in the acknowledgment of characters like the landlady and the Irregulars who only get a passing comment in Conan stories. Anthony also gives us a different facet of Lestrade; which was interesting to read.
The storyline itself is a pretty interesting with a simple case coming to the doorsteps leading to a larger and more dangerous case which poses a threat to Sherlock's life. The two stories seeming divorced from each other have certain linkages which get revealed only in the final pages of the novel. This story is also a unique case of Sherlock being implicated for murder and sent to the jail. Another unique thing is the brutal murders that are part of the story.
There are several murders in the story but the gruesome murder of certain characters sends a chill up your spine and that gives the novel a unique character which is so unlike Conanical Sherlock.
The climax of the major case (the House of Silk) is pretty horrible and ugly. The horror that grips you as you see the climax unfold is something one has never experienced in Sherlock Holmes novels. And then we go back to the minor case from where it all started and it has an equally interesting climax … and then the two connect. It's like a major case cocooned inside a smaller one.
It was a very good novel to read and I enjoyed it. The certain unique points elaborated above made it pretty interesting and different.  I would certainly recommend it to any Sherlock Holmes fan out there.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Son of Sardar is really SOS material

I somehow had the feeling that 'Son of Sardar' would be anytime better than 'Jab Tak Hain Jaan' …

So with wife and 2 kids (not mine) in tow, we caught up a late night show of SOS.

 

SOS was my reaction during and after the movie. <SOS bole to 'save our souls' .. the ancient distress call by ships in peril>

Forced and Confused Expressions pasted on Ajay Devgn's face … a very good and capable actor reduced to a clown (and not even an entertaining one). Same goes for Sanjay Dutt. Nothing much to be talked about the rest of the cast including Sonakshi. Easy to forget songs further made forgettable by worth remembering choreography.

SOS was a sorry film.

I blame the Director for the debacle. I advise you to keep away from the SOS screens to simply Save Your Souls

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hatrick :(

 

A hatrick in cricket is a good thing. 3 wickets in a row are pretty awesome.

Whenever there is something that occurs thrice in a row … we call it a hatrick … but then … it is not always good things that happen thrice in a row.

A case in point being my being away from home on my birthday 3 times in row in 3 consecutive years.

In 2010 … I had to travel 2 hours before the stroke of midnight … I was in mid-air when ordinarily I would have been wished 'happy birthday'

In 2011 … I had travelled a few days earlier but nevertheless, on my birthday, I was not at home

In 2012 … once again fate plays the same old joke on me making me travel on the day before my birthday forcing me to be away amidst strangers on my birthday

This year, I am in Mundra (375 km away from Ahmedabad in Gujarat) on a client engagement

I have not spent a single birthday with my wife yet … so u can imagine the anger / sadness / frustration and so many other emotions that she is undergoing

Being away from home – family and wife – is in itself a great birthday spoiler and it has happened not once or twice but three times in a row.

God Knows whats in store for me next year !!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Book Review: Collision of Dimensions by M V Ravi Shanker

I read about the novel somewhere and the blurb sounded interesting. I wrote to Leadstart (the publisher) about 'Collision of Dimensions' and they were kind enough to send across a copy of the book for review.
This 500+ pager novel has an interesting premise and the story develops in an interesting manner. The characters, the 'Force', the events woven into the plot were decent. There is something called 'character development' which is completely missing from the novel. The character which comes into possession of the Force is supposed to undergo character development due to the Force but nothing really happens. The powers that he begins to become aware of are not really great … a bit of premonition is not really powerful enough.
Mumbai is the scene of action and I don't know why the author has got the geography of Mumbai wrong. There are several factual errors regarding locations within the city. Too much of geographical details of a place will seem irrelevant to a reader who does not know the place and for the reader who knows the place, s/he will be able to poke plenty of holes and pick out all errors. A simple google maps usage could have saved the author from making all those mistakes about locations in Mumbai and their relative placement.
I also found that the narration became disjointed at times. A character shows a response to a certain event happening in front of his eyes and the actual description of the event comes after 2 pages … all through the 2 pages you are wondering what warranted that response.
The climax had plenty of scope of be an explosive high drama suspense event but it was pretty disappointing. It lacked the punch … it lacked the collision of dimensions !!
The author, Ravi Shanker, has a great story to tell but he isn't a great story teller. His writing style is pretty ordinary and does not excite the reader although the story and the events there in are pretty exciting. After finishing the novel, I wish he or the publisher would have employed either a ghost writer or a master story teller as co-author to bring the writing style up several notches. The novel would then be a best seller material. The novel has quite a few noticeable spelling/grammar/factual errors which should have been ironed out in the editing process by the publisher if not the author. Dunno how and why those escaped scrutin.
The book has a very drab cover design. If I were to see the book in the bookshelf, I would have never picked it up to read the back cover. I am sure the publishers realize that the book cover is responsible for the book being picked up in the store and the back cover is the decision maker on buying it. The book cover looks like it was designed by a power point newbie who wasn't paid for his work. With the kind of title and story line the book has, the cover design should have been super-awesome. I wish the publishers gave the book a 'face-lift' and a fresh marketing initiative.
Overall, the author and publisher did have a raw diamond which they failed to adequately polish before releasing it for the world to see. I liked the plot and storyline but the book was not up to the mark. I wont be able to recommend this to anyone.
Considering I received the review copy from the Publisher, dunno if they will ever send me any novels to review in future after I have literally ripped this one apart and blamed the author as well as publisher!!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Travel Solutions

Travelling to Vadodara versus travelling to office in Mumbai

I recently went to Vadodara for a meeting.

Travelled in the morning and was back after a meeting between 12 noon to 2 pm. Catching a flight at 3.45 PM, I was home before 6 PM in the evening.

The flight time from Mumbai to Vadodara is less than an hour

So I was wondering … every day I travel for about 75 minutes to reach office from my home … and the time of travel between Mumbai and Vadodara is less than 60 minutes. Isn't it strange?

We need far superior local travel solutions that what we have today if not for anything else but to conserve the millions of man-hours we waste in inefficient travel …

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Skyfall: Aasmaan se Gira (Khajoor Main Atka) !!

Remove the James Bond element and Skyfall is a pretty good movie. But then, I am negatively biased towards Daniel Craig as Bond and so is my review for Skyfall. I somehow never liked Daniel Craig in the James Bond character.
I have this Pierce Brosnan image of Bond – flair, womanizer, electronic gadgets, gadget loaded cars, car chases, high tech weapons and gadgetry of the villains, international espionage, global threats & conspiracies etc. Skyfall and Daniel Craig do not meet these expectations of mine and hence did not impress me.  The only car Daniel Craig manages to use is actually an old one ... not a techno wizardry of Q.
Also, the villain in Skyfall seems to be a weak character who does not really wreck havoc although he is supposed to be more capable than Bond. The climax wasn't explosive enough (although full of explosions).
The 'Q' wasn't impressive enough nor was his work. There were even things/events in the movie which seemed inconsequential, almost meaningless.
So is the movie bad? Not really.
When I remove the Bond context, this movie comes out nice (inspite of the flaws). It is indeed good with a very nice chase sequence right in the beginning.
Daniel is an intense character and suits the 'role' in the movie. The movie has decent amount of action although I would have preferred some awe-inspiring action rather than what is shown in the climax which is something I would see in a movie of the past century or even earlier one. And yes, something which struck me as odd was that the Bond looked old ... very old ... for an active double-o agent.
Time to change the Bond please !!

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Book Review: The Bankster by Ravi Subramanian


First look at the cover from a distance and you can be forgiven to think of this as a Batman Book. The cover draws inspiration (my personal thoughts) from the Dark Knight poster. With the book in hand, you realize its different but the appreciation for the cover design and styling does not go. I have written about the cover designs of Indian novels improving over the past year or so and this is yet another example of a superb cover design.

The novel starts out with a bang … CIA, arms pilferage to terrorists, blood diamonds … and then contrasts to another incident where a old couple in kerala is caught up in the vicious trap of the local police and their son goes through the pain of seeing his father being humiliated and then moving away from the country where a couple of years later, he is a victim of a nuclear disaster.

After this 'start-with-a-bang', the story sort of fizzles out …
The author then begins to introduce different characters of a bank in Mumbai and the story seems to describe the target-meeting-frenzy, office politics, extra marital affairs and greed of individuals and the conflicts of those who don't fall in line with the others. A parallel track about a nuclear power plant and protest against its commissioning is also there; with the involvement of politicians and powerful people. The bang at the start is forgotten.
And then a person dies. Written off as an accident and soon forgotten. There are some minor events happening to bank (giving you some faint feeling that it is a build up to a major event; but no direct linkages shown) and the protest against the nuclear power plant is moving on.
I was expecting a 'fast paced eventful' story and was disappointed. The story moves at a steady pace as if describing the protest and life in a bank without really any criminal activity happening (only alluding to it very very indirectly).
And then another murder(s) and then another one and the story picks up pace … with the active involvement of a new character who turns out to become the protagonist of the story (although appearing half way thro the novel)
After a slow and steady first half … the novel turns pacy and racy in the second half becoming almost an unputdownable. The story converges in the end and all the loose ends are tied together. Several of the small unimportant details become suddenly significant and play an important role in typing them up together.
The climax is really good and the suspense is fantastic. This could have been a script of a bollywood suspense movie and I wish someone picks up this book to convert it into a movie. At least the masses who haven't read this book will get to see a good suspense thriller after a long time.
One good thing about the book was something which relieved me of my biggest worry about Ravi's novels. All his novels have been related to Banking and I was wary of reading a novel full of banking terms and fundas. Thankfully, this novel does not drown you in an ocean of banking industry jargon. Encourages me to pick up other novels by Ravi.
One last point … the book review copy I received was signed by the author. A very good read and an author signed copy is a nice combination and I will cherish this one for long. This is one of the very few author signed novels I have and this will actually be the best author signed novel that I have :)
 Note: This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com  ... Participate now to get free books!

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

October Reading – Part 4

 

Continued from previous post …

 

23. ACD Shorts: The Lost Special by Arthur Conan Doyle

How does one make an entire train disappear? No, we are not talking illusionists or magicians here. We are talking of a train disappearing off the tracks while in motion and police are unable to trace it for years. It is only the confessions of the man who was behind the disappearance that solves the mystery.

 

24. PKD Shorts: The Chromium Fence by Philip K Dick

In future earth, people are divided on the basis of habits and preferences. The population divided between naturalists and purists. One follows the image of humans created by the marketing of the cosmetic companies. People have to choose allegiance to one of the sides and the fence sitters are scorned upon by either side. Elections are held and one side wins. The other side is forced to comply with the rules laid by the winning side.

A very interesting perspective on how humans get divided over trivial. In the present age people are differentiated and discriminated based on country of origin, color of skin and religion. The story talks about a time when people might get discriminated on body odor, sweat and body hair. Scary !!

 

25. The Richest Man in Babylon by George Samuel Clason

The Richest Man in Babylon is a book by George Samuel Clason which dispenses financial advice through a collection of parables set in ancient Babylon. Through their experiences in business and managing household finance, the characters in the parables learn simple lessons in financial wisdom. Originally, a series of separate informational pamphlets distributed by banks and insurance companies, the pamphlets were bound together and published in book form in 1926 (source: Wikipedia)

 

26. PKD Shorts: War Veteran by Philip K Dick

A very interesting story where an old man finds himself in an environment which he believes is unreal and fake. He has memories of the earth being destroyed and when he finds himself in an earth city; he thinks man has just recreated the city for the handful of the survivors (including the sun and moon in the fake sky).

This perplexes other people around who 'know' that they are living in the real world and the earth was not destroyed. The old man's army credentials don't check out and his serial number has not yet been assigned. Conclusion: This old man has accidently arrived from the future where Earth has been destroyed as a result of a war which earth people engage in and lose.

The mysteries don't end here. But this is only the tip of an iceberg … an intricate plot !!

 

27-35. Short Story Collection: Love, Peace and Happiness by Rituraj Verma

I have written earlier about how I have fallen in love with short stories (all over again) in the past 2 years with the number of short stories that I read every month constantly increasing. So when Rituraj Verma dropped me an email with a request to review his short story collection, I did not have to think twice before replying in a 'Yes'.

It is a nice collection overall; with the novel concept of alternate endings available on the internet for readers to get more value out of the book. If the reader is not satisfied by the ending in the book or the web, they can suggest their own. Frankly, I had my expectations up and maybe that was why I was disappointed once again. There was hardly any alternative ending that I liked and I am too lazy to write my own and send it to the author.

Since it is a collection of short stories, even the review of the content gets split - some were good, some ok'ish while some did not make any impact on me.

Overall, the book is a nice read. It is emotional. You feel for the characters. You identify with them and often find yourselves wondering if it was you in the story. I would recommend this book to anyone who is open enough to the new ideologies of relationships and is interested in emotional stuff which touches your heart.
Full review posted last month

   

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

The Three Investigators          42 out of 43     Almost Completed     

Sherlock: Exploits                    12 out of 12     Completed

Sherlock: Misadventures        33 out of 33     Completed     

Total                                       87 out of 88

 

Note: The scores above have reached their completion point (almost).  The original Three Investigator series as well as both the Sherlock Holmes series (Exploits and Misadventures) have been completed this month. This block of score will not appear for next few months … till Jan 2013 when I pick up a new series which needs tracking like the ones above (and which I propose to read over a period of several months)

Monday, November 05, 2012

October Reading – Part 3

  

Continued from previous post …

 

16. Three Investigators Novella: The Mystery of Wrecker's Rock by William Arden  

The three investigators are sent fishing off the coast by Bob's father with a simple instruction – click pictures. The lure is that if they click 'interesting' pictures, they will get paid for them. With no idea, what to expect in the seas; the trio is lazing around fishing when they encounter something really interesting and their camera gets into action as they witness a family reunion of a different kind. The people pose and they take some really nice pics of a family re-union which has some historical importance. They also discover an abandoned boat leading to the case of a missing person (probably dead) which is duly reported to police; nothing much for the trio to do on that though.

Someone is now interested in those pictures and the trio as well as Bob's father have to face assault/attack by masked men out to rob the photos. An interested party (notorious individual) is the prime suspect but some incidents hint at other adversaries in the picture. Research indicates that there is a history behind the people and place involved with stories of 'gold' treasure. The trio is still at their wits regarding the importance of the innocent harmless pictures they clicked.

The story does have an interesting climax. Also, William Arden is able to effectively bring out the 'adventure' in the story which was not the case with other 3I novellas written by other authors. Now, there is just one more to go from the original set of 43 novellas of this series.

 

17. ACD Shorts: The Terror of Blue John Gap by Arthur Conan Doyle

 

An old man retiring in a small town finds that there are legends of an ominous creature suspected behind disappearances of sheep in the valley. He takes it upon himself to explore the caves and the mountains. The story consists of diary entries about his encounter with this creature.
In his exploration, he comes face to face with this prehistoric creature of huge size who has presumably lived all his life confined to the deep dark bowels of the earth making occasional visits for small animals like sheep for food.   

 

18. PKD Shorts: 'Foster, You're Dead' by Philip K Dick

In the world of marketing by fear; this story is based on the premise of selling by fear of death. We see that happening even today where insurance is sold based on fear. What if you were told that 'war' is bound to break out any time and to protect yourself; you need to pay for some aerial surveillance as well as 'buy' some products like survival bunkers which become out dated and useless in a matter of months with the advent of new weapons. What do you do ?? Buy or risk perishing in the wake of an attack.

 

19. Sherlock Misadventures: The Man Who Was Not Dead by Manly Wade Wellman

A soldier of the enemy troops disguised as the country's own soldier parachutes himself into one of the villages and begins his trail to locate a phone to call up an individual who would mobilize forces to defeat the country by waging a war from within.

On his journey, he chances upon a house with 3 residents whom he deceives by his preparations … only it is not all's well that's ends well for him. He is in for a surprise and if the story were to be read independent of the context of Sherlock or this book; then even the reader is in for a surprise.

 

20. ACD Shorts: The Brazilian Cat by Arthur Conan Doyle

 

An individual from an elite British family has fallen on hard times. He has no skills and hence not employable and his health is constantly depleting. He is waiting for an impending financial doom when he receives an invitation from a distant cousin who has become pretty famous for his riches in recent time. He takes up the invitation in the hopes of getting some financial aid.

The visit is interesting and during this visit he is introduced to a host of peculiar animals and birds on his cousin's estate. The most dangerous of them is a Brazilian cat which is more like a Puma or a black leopard. As the end of the visit nears, our man talks about his financial difficulties to his cousin who promises to help. Strange turn of event takes place and our protagonist finds himself facing imminent and sure dreadful death. There is a twist in the tail of this interesting tale which is interesting as well as mildly surprising.

 

21. Sherlock Exploits: The Adventure of the Red Widow by Adrian Doyle

A murder is committed in a very gruesome manner and the clues are pointing to historical significance of the instrument of murder. Sherlock arrives at the scene and finds that the case which appears very much clear-cut to the inspector in charge is a convoluted one. This case has similarities to / inspirations from 2-3 different Conan stories. With this story, the 12 story 'Exploits of Sherlock Holmes' came to an end. Next, I will pick up the new Sherlock Holmes novel, 'The House of Silk'.

 

22. PKD Shorts: Pay for the Printer by Philip K Dick

The story is set in an era which is beyond the progressive years of the present times … a time when man has brought about technological destruction upon him and has lost the personal human capability to make basic tools of like. They are now dependant on some entities to 'copy' and make things from existing originals or duplicates. They have forgotten the art of building things and only get their things copied by these entities.

BUT, these entities are dying and man must begin a painfully long journey of learning the art of building. Imagine restarting the evolution journey by building spears from stones and then discovering how to use metals.
 

To Be Continued …

Saturday, November 03, 2012

October Reading – Part 2


Continued from previous post …

7. PKD Shorts: Sales Pitch by Philip K Dick
We all are vary of the spam in our mailbox, the sms and sales calls on our mobile phones selling us houses, home loans, credit cards and holiday packages. Marketing is moving over from informational to irritating to intrusive.
Fast Forward life a couple of decades and imagine how far would this intrusion go? This short one from PKD is about a guy who gets frustrated by the constant 'sales pitch' he is being subjected to. One fine day, something happens and he decides that the 'sales pitch' has gone too far. He takes some decisive action (pretty destructive one) and the results are ironic and funny at the same time.

8. Sherlock Misadventures: The Case of the Diabolical Plot by Richard Mallett
What would you think if you heard that thieves / robbers were stealing piano keys, circus elephants, billiard balls and chess pieces across the city?
If you are Sherlock Holmes, you are sure to smell a rat here and deduce that this is a diabolic plot to defeat the country in war or blackmail the country into submission.

9. Novel: Red Jihad by Sami Ahmad Khan  
After Shadow Throne, this was yet another novel based on the India-Pakistan political tension; the difference was the inclusion of Naxalites and the backdrop of the Red Corridor. Red Jihad by Sami Ahmad Khan was a truly enjoyable read with elements of international espionage and war in the Indo-Pak setting.
I liked Sami's writing style; reminded me of Ludlum … introduction of events as well as characters, usage of temporary characters to describe an event (temporary because these characters eventually die within 2-3 pages of their introduction in the event which is often an armed  disaster!! The story has a constant chain of events which keep you on the proverbial 'edge of the seat'.
I liked the way Sami has woven the story with India-Pak-China-US relationships as well as the inner non-state players like Naxalites and terrorist groups from Pak-Afghanistan region. He ties them all pretty well.
Full review posted last month.

10. ACD Shorts: The Case of Lady Sannox by Arthur Conan Doyle

A lady notorious for having affairs with gentlemen is at the centre of the story. A thorough gentleman (a doctor) falls prey to her charms and is losing credibility. A man arrives at his clinic with an emergency regarding his wife who has cut her lip with a poisonous dagger, offering a sizable amount for the doctor's services. The doctor has an appointment his lady and is torn between the choices. He makes his choice and the climax brings the two choices together in a very unexpected manner.

11. PKD Shorts: Shell Game by Philip K Dick
A sane person calls a mad person mad and so does the mad person call the same person mad. But what if all the persons in the room are Mad? Would they call each other mad or the collective madness will transform into a collective sanity which would invent
Imagine yourself a part of a society who believes that they are under constant attack. A discovery begins to change their perceptions of themselves and they don't know what to believe.

12. Sherlock Misadventures: Christmas Eve by S. C. Roberts
A lady approaches Sherlock and Watson with the case of the missing pearl necklace of her employer. Sherlock has his doubts and rather than question her on the details of the crime; he indulges her in useless conversations. His deductions are nevertheless in place and the 'non-existent' case is quickly solved. Just FYI - This particular story is written in a stage play format.

13. ACD Challenger Novel: The Land of Mist by Arthur Conan Doyle
This is my third and last of Dr. Challenger novels; I now have just 2 short Challenger stories left to read (next month). There isn't exactly a story there. The novel is but a collection of different experiences of the different characters and it is more like an essay on spirits and séances. (According to Wikipedia) This story is heavily influenced by Doyle's growing belief in Spiritualism after the death of his son, brother, and two nephews in World War.   
Marlon is once again in the story although with a new companion, Challenger's daughter, Enid. Summerlee is dead … but still managed to make an appearance in the story. Why not? The story is about spiritualism and séances etc. Marlon and Enid are investigating spiritualism as journalists. As the story proceeds and both Marlon and Enid have had spiritual experiences. Another of the regular characters; Lord John Roxton, also joins the story in spiritual adventure. Ultimately, Dr. Challenger himself, who has opposed the ideas of spirits and séances vehemently, gets some proof of their existence and begins his exploration of the spiritual world. This wasn't really a Dr. Challenger story; Marlon and Enid commanding the spotlight throughout the story.

14. PKD Shorts: Upon the Dull Earth by Philip K Dick
A girl thinks she can attract fairies from the 'other world' and feels suffocated on earth as she thinks she has a higher calling. In spite of the warnings of the family members and a boy who loves her; she continues to make attempts at getting in touch with the 'fairies'. Accidentally, she crosses over to the other world and gets in touch back with her 'boyfriend' telling him that it happened too soon and she wanted to come back but there was no way of doing it except one and the one who knew it had died.
The boy insists that she try and she does come back in spite of the risks involved. Her coming back is just the start of a nightmare for the boy !!!  

15. Sherlock Exploits: The Adventure of the Deptford Horror by Adrian Doyle
A lady approaches Sherlock with the strange events at her secluded home which seem to be warning of an imminent danger. Sherlock deduces certain things and realizes that the lady has arrived a day too late. He rushes to the lady's home only to find the murder already committed.

To Be Continued …

Thursday, November 01, 2012

October Reading – Part 1

 

October, once again saw a dominance of Indian Authors (all new for me). The novels of the month were 'Shadow Throne' by Aroon Raman and 'Red Jihad' by Sami Ahmad Khan, both received as part of the Book Review Program of BlogAdda. I also received a Short Story Collection, 'Love, Peace and Happiness' from the author, Rituraj Verma. BTW … I had planned to begin the Kane Chronicles Trilogy by Rick Riordan this month but these book reviews have pushed it further.

Amongst the regular novels/novellas, I read 1 short novel by PKD and 1 not-so-short-but-almost-long novel by ACD –  'Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep' by Philip K Dick and the last Dr. Challenger novel titled 'The Land of Mist' by Arthur Conan Doyle; And one novella from the Three Investigators series.

Amongst the short story regulars I had 8 by Philip K. Dick, 6 by Arthur Conan Doyle, 3 from the Misadventure series, 2 from the Exploits series of Sherlock Holmes and 1 short collection of incidents from the Army. Rituraj Verma's short story collection had 9 stories taking the total short story count for the month to 29. Both the Sherlock series reached their completion this month. I will pick up the new Sherlock Holmes novel before end of 2012.  

New authors this month: All Indian Star Cast - Aroon Raman, Sami Ahmad Khan, Rituraj Verma and Ashis Roy. Aroon's debut novel was impressive while Rituraj's short story collection was interesting. Shami Ahmad Khan's novel was a pleasant surprise while Ashis Roy's short collection of (supposedly real) Army incidents was interesting.

This month's reading score of 35 – thanks to the collection of short stories that I reviewed besides my regular reading.

 

1. Novel: The Shadow Throne by Aroon Raman

This month from BlogAdda.com's Book Review Program is the novel 'The Shadow Throne' by Aroon Raman. For a debut novel, I am pretty impressed by Aroon's work.

I liked the Shadow Throne but it is not without its faults. My first impression after reading the first 20-30 pages was "Oh No! Not Again" - I could straightaway see several similarity with the likes of Da Vinci Code and Krishna Key. The Shadow Throne begins on familiar grounds (almost Déjà vu) but thankfully that's where the similarity ends. Instead of the story taking on a Dan Brown'ish route of mythology and symbology … the story become Robert Ludlum'ish.

The story meanders towards international espionage with spies, secret service intelligence agencies, internal politics within them and the uncertain loyalties of different characters. There are some shady characters in the story and you keep changing your opinion on which side their loyalties lie; often feeling that the protagonist is simply being manipulated by master minds to achieve their own objectives.  I have read a lot of Ludlum and it was a welcome and pleasant change to read about Indo-Pak espionage and intelligence agencies.

Full review posted last month.

 

2. PKD Short Novel: 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?' by Philip K Dick

 

A story set in the distant future with respect to the published time of the story (actually it was only 1992); a time when planet earth is not a planet of choice and people are leaving the planet to settle aboard Mars with an added lure of a fully functional android (robot) by government. Some people have chosen to continue to live on earth and a status symbol of sorts between them is to own a pet animal (by the way a huge number of species of animals are already extinct due to the same holocaustic reasons which have made earth non-habitable for humans).

A Bounty Hunter gets paid for identifying (by means of an administered test) Androids that have escaped Mars and come to Earth. He gets a list of 6 Androids and the assassination of these 6 makes him go through a lot including new realizations and self-doubts.

There are times in the story, where you feel that the story is spreading in different directions and once again, you struggle to make head or head of it. Typical PKD stuff I guess. It takes a philosophical bend of mind to interpret, appreciate and understand what the author is trying to say through his cryptic story telling. If you are wondering about the title of this story; let me tell you this … there are androids, there are sheep … but were there any dreams in the story? Well …. You decide, if you have the heart to read through this PKD long story.

Ubik and now this one … I am not really falling in love with PKD long stories / novels. I think after a few more reads of long stories, I would rather stick to his short stories only.

 

3. ACD Shorts: The Leather Funnel by Arthur Conan Doyle

 

So what do you think is the stuff that dreams are made of? Opinions differ from 'your own thoughts' to 'your worries and aspirations' … and some even say that dreams can get influenced by the objects placed near your pillow while you sleep; especially if the objects have an interesting history. This short is about a curious leather funnel whose history is 'seen' through the dreams and deduced from the knowledge of the recorded history.

 

4. PKD Shorts: The Crawlers by Philip K Dick

 

We all know about the ill effects of nuclear tests, nuclear explosions and radioactive leakages on the health of people exposed to the subsequent radiation. The effects manifest as deformations in the new born babies. What if the deformations were grotesque enough to make the new born babies appear as some other creature altogether? How would a typical couple react to the new born? How would society react?

AND how do you think the new society of these 'creatures' react to the 'normal humans'???

 

5. Short Story: Army was Olive Green by Ashis Roy

Ashis Roy has collected a few quick incidents from the Indian Army and has put them together in this short collection. They are interesting and varied. The Olive Green in the title is a reference to the Army dressing / uniform which became unanimous to its reference of the attitude and behavior of the Army men. Olive Green (OG) became an indication of straight-stiff mentality and going-by-the-book attitude. The more OG you are, more the stickler for rules you are.

 

6. ACD Shorts: The New Catacomb by Arthur Conan Doyle

 

Two learned men with significantly different nature become good friends as they find alignment in their archeological related pursuits. One of them makes a monumental discovery which he is reluctant to share with the other. The other persists and the first one agrees to share his secret provided the other shares another secret with him.

The secret is related to his relationship with a woman whom he had abandoned. Secret is shared and the favor is returned by sharing of the monumental discovery. The climax of the story is damn terrific (though you begin to have some inkling of the same half-way through the story).

 

To Be Continued …