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'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 …

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