Wednesday, January 09, 2013

December Reading – Part 1

Author Rishi Vohra approached me directly in November with a request to review his novel 'Once upon the tracks of Mumbai' … I accepted and picked it up as the first read in December.
Then things went into a whirlwind for me and I was unable to pick up any other novel in the month. I was travelling and was busy. Despite being a month with a lot of travel but it did not translate into reading as my travel time was encroached upon by work. It was a pretty busy month with my travel times being consumed by blackberry emails, calls and documentation reading. Suddenly all my fiction reading time vanished :(
Besides the singular novel, I also enjoyed reading the last novella from the original Three Investigators series and 2 short stories by Dave Jinks. In 2013, I will continue reading the fan fiction and the crime-buster series of the 3 Investigators.
I ended up reading only one novel (mentioned above) and amongst the short story regulars I read 8 by Philip K. Dick and 10 by Arthur Conan Doyle giving a short story count of 20 (including the two 3I shorts mentioned above.
New authors this month: The singular novel that I read this month was by a new author; Rishi Vohra. Also, the 3I short stories I read by a new author – Dave Jinks.
This reading score last month of a splendid year – a measly 22

1. Novel: Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai by Rishi Vohra
The author wrote to me with a request to review his book and I agreed for a very simple reason. It has been some time since I have read anything emotional so I was thinking of picking up something along those lines. When the review request for this one came up and I read the cover blurb, it was a quick one to decide.
I enjoyed reading the book as it gave a perspective of the protagonist who is suffering from autism and hence ignored by most or taken advantage off, if not being made into a clown for their personal entertainment. He then chances upon an event which changes his life and gives meaning to his otherwise non-existent life. He is noticed and talked about … but is this really happening. Are people really talking about him or someone else?
There is a nice set of regular predictable day-to-day characters which are believable and provide the various curves in the story. And there is Rail-Man (yes … he is a super-man, spider-man kind of '-man') who saves people in distress near railway line (hence the name) who attracts a lot of media attention and has an influence on the key characters of our story.

2. PKD Shorts: The Skull by Philip K Dick

A man is sent to kill another man who died about 200 years ago. This little known dead man had his 2 minutes of glory when he said something to an assembled crowd and ended up changing the course of history. He was immediately arrested. Although deemed dead shortly after; he was seen by people at a later date and hence the assumption of him 'rising from the dead' and given Christ-like status and his words sparking off a revolutionary movement.
People now want him dead and hence our protagonist is given the task of killing him off BEFORE he makes those statements. Since there is little known about this man; the assassin in handed over his skull for identification. The climax is extremely interesting and you tend to begin to guess the climax somewhere at the last beginning of the last quarter of the story.

3. PKD Shorts: The Defenders by Philip K Dick

A world where humans have declared world war and the world as we know are destroyed. The surface is not habitable and humans have moved down to the sub-surface cities and continue to wage a war against each other (Russians and Americans) using robots who are on the surface. It has been 8 years since humans have come down to the bowels of the earth working in factories churning out weapons and arms for the robot's to continue the war.
They get the latest reports and pictures etc from the surface which is horrendous – humans cannot survive on the surface and hence human's have not gone up to the surface for 8 years. The robots are their only link to the stark reality of the surface and their means to continue the war. A chance observation by one of the interrogators is now going to change all that …

4. PKD Shorts: Mr. Spaceship by Philip K Dick

A very interesting premise with an equally interesting climax. Humans are faced with new kinds of interstellar entities which are living weapons. They are living beings which feel and sense and probably even think …as a result humans have been unable to penetrate their defenses while those entities are destroying human space ships even before the ships arm themselves and begin to fire.
A man has a brainwave and he designs a fighter spaceship which will be controlled by a human brain (just the brain … without the body). The challenge is to find an genius human who will be willing to donate his brain.
He eventually finds an individual who is ready to donate … but he has no clue of what the individual's master plan is !!!

5. Three Investigators Novella: The Mystery of the Cranky Collector by M. V. Carey 
This was the last one in the original 3I series. The story begins on an interesting note where the trio finds themselves in the house (mansion) of a Rich and Mean individual who seems to have made only enemies all along his life. They are in a middle of a party and the man himself disappears.
The trio gets involved and things begin to point towards something paranormal in the house (read: ghosts) … someone or something walking in the attic but is not visible to anyone. A Ransom note appears on the scene confirming kidnap of the old man but the kidnappers want some book which no one in the household seems to have a clue about. The old man seems to have a collection of thousands of books but none of them fits the kidnapper's requirement.

6. ACD Challenger Short: When the World Screamed by Arthur Conan Doyle
This one was first of the Dr. Challenger short stories where Dr. C decides to test his hypothesis that Earth is a living organism and we humans and the rest of the flora, fauna, animal and other life forms on the surface of the earth are nothing but what bacteria and virus on our skin might seem to us.
His audacious plan is to 'poke' this organism after drilling through the hard exterior shell which protects it. Dr. C is eventually successful in his experiment and the 'poked' earth 'reacts' in pain … causing world-wide repercussions  

To be continued …

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