Friday, March 15, 2013

February Reading – Part 1

Started the month with a novel titled 'Asura - The Tale of the Vanquished'; followed by PKD & Hitchcock short stories and before picking up a novel by Clive Cussler 'The Golden Buddha'. Later in the month, I also reviewed a non-fiction (a first for me) book titled 'Chanakya's New Manifesto' besides reading a lot of short stories from my monthly regulars. Also, started reading short stories from the thick fat volume titled "World's Greatest Selected Short Stories" (WGS) which has a collection of about 80 short stories by various authors.  
New authors this month: Anand Neelakantan was the new author for me through the novel, 'Asura - The Tale of the Vanquished'. The BlogAdda Book Review program once again introduced me to a new author, Pavan Varma through his non-fiction book on the current state-of-affairs of India, "Chankaya's New Manifesto". It has been a long time since I read non-fiction and it was a decent read. The Hitchcock series short stories are all by different authors, new to me while the WGS shorts are also by authors, some of them, new to me.  
This month's reading score – 23 – with 3 novels and 20 short stories  

1. Novel: Asura - The Tale of the Vanquished by Anand Neelakantan
I had expected the story be from the perspective of Ravana where Ravana would be glorified and his good as well as bad side be given from his perspective. What came out was Ravana being portrayed as a Stupid Guy with Big Dreams and able men around him who helped him become an Emperor. I mean literally, he has been portrayed as stupid.
The book was overall a painfully slow and torturous read ... I kept reading till the end hoping it would get better in the end. The storyline made no sense at times. Ravana was not shown as a strong character ... a promiscuous man with children from his wife, another lady and even a servant ... crazy!
At some point, it even felt as if the author was twisting the facts and events of the original Ramayana to suit his story-telling. This didn't go down well with me. What I expected was a different perspective to Ramayana … not a different Ramayana.

2. PKD Shorts: Meddler by Philip K Dick

A man arrives from the past into a distant future world … and this man has the ability to fix things. He is sort of a mechanic with an ability to fix a variety of things and he has the intuition to make them better. He arrives in a world where people had become too specialized to understand his expansive skills and even consider him as a threat since their computing systems cannot factor in the impact this man can create on their world. He becomes their Variable Man.

3. PKD Shorts: The Great C by Philip K Dick

A spaceship leaving a planet is stopped by law officers who want to search for 3 'criminals' who have destroyed a city. They have a lie detector and all passengers pass. Subsequently, the fellow passengers begin to talk and some of them come together to discuss what actually happened. The city is no more … but it was not actually destroyed. That's how they escaped detection by the Lie Detector.

4. PKD Shorts: Out in the Garden by Philip K Dick

Imagine the 'Principle of Sufficient Irritation' – Irritate an inanimate object so much that it HAS to take some action … like get away, walk away, crawl away or just move. Imagine a machine which can generate the 'sufficient irritation' and objects in the house begin to respond to it. And watching one inanimate object moving, the other gets 'sufficiently irritated' and so on and so forth …

5. Hitchcock – Shrouds & Pockets: The Monster Brain by Richard Deming
This story begins with our protagonist asked to investigate a seemingly innocuous insurance fraud. He honestly pursues the investigation and finds the reasons to the anomalies much to his satisfaction and is about to give the whole case and the man involved, a clean chit, when something happens and the pieces of a different puzzle fall into place.

6. Hitchcock – Shrouds & Pockets: Jigsaw Puzzle by Stephen Wasyly
A drunk man, known to all in the community is killed in a hit and run case. Another man's car is found off the road. This man's wife has left him and he is grieving. Three unconnected incidents begin to connect in the sheriff's head and the when all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle fall in place; the picture which emerges is something totally different and pretty scary.

7. Novel: The Oregon Files - The Golden Buddha by Clive Cussler
This was the first in the Oregon series and the cast and crew of Oregon and the Oregon itself is introduced much to the delight and excitement of the first time reader. The plot revolves around the theft of an ancient Golden Buddha which contains something extremely valuable. There is theft and there is double-crossing. Governments and secret service agencies of multiple countries are involved while the private corporation at Oregon plays a pivotal role in bringing about world peace while earning some profit.

8. Hitchcock – The Shadow of Silence: The Trophy by Stephen Wasylyk
A man dreams of having the head of the deer over his fireplace as his ultimate trophy. He has even seen one (dear, I mean) in the woods and decides to hunt it down before the winters are over. His trek into the woods leads him to a desolate spot where he finds a person in need of his help. It doesn't take much time for the reality to come out. The kid 'pretending' to be in need has a gun and he takes our man's 'help' to get out of the woods. The climax is expected but the twist in the end is pretty interesting.

9. Hitchcock – The Shadow of Silence: The Return of Sam Lipkin by Michael Zuroy
Just imagine - a colleague or worse still, your boss dies … in your dream. And then this dead boss gives you a call on your phone … in your dream where they are supposed to be dead. He not just calls but instructs our man to do things. Back in the real world, things are normal, including the boss being alive. Back into the dreams, he gets instructions from his dad boss to kill the other boss which he promptly does. Back at work, thankfully both bosses are alive and even give our man a promotion. And back in the dreams … there is a change of caller!!!

10. Hitchcock – The Shadow of Silence: One in a Million by Charles Einstein
Coincidences can be rare and this story is based on a bet made on a one-in-a-million-chance coincidence (actually I would put it as one-in-a-Billion). Now imagine this: A wrong number on the telephone makes 2 gentlemen talk about it and the first one bets the other man that he (gentleman no. 2) could pick up any object in the room and then pick up any number from the telephone directory. Then the number would be dialed and the person who picks up at the other end would tell them exactly what was picked up in the room. Seems completely baffling and impossible … right. Well, they go through the rigmarole and the person at the other end actually picks the right object … giving the gentleman a near fatal heart attack.
The climax is actually a double climax where the 'trick' is reveals and so is the 'coincidence'  

11. Hitchcock – The Shadow of Silence: The Electronic Brain by Leo R Ellis
A television repair man is happy to get calls immediately after his 'new business' pamphlets are distributed. His first customer is a beautiful lady which makes his day. The next one is a man who hits him on his head and knocks him out. Strange incidents follow which make no sense but gradually our repairman begins to piece things together and his brain makes the connections and completes the circuit.  

To be continued …

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