Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ramayana - Shattered Dreams - Review

Author: Shubha Vilas
Genre: Mythology

Mythology is a subject which is vast and well-known. Everyone knows atleast a bit about something and has his/her own interpretation of the epic stories. I have my set opinions too.
I got my first taste of Ramayana (like most 80s kids!) from Sagar's televised version. Arun Govil is my Rama when I close my eyes. Well, the impact was huge.

So when I started reading Shubha Vilas's interepretation of Ramayana, my protogonist is stil Arun Govil :D Ramayana isnt only about Lord Rama and Sita and the villainous Ravana. It has got multitudes of mini-stories within and thats exactly what the author tries to tell us. The focus is on the main characters but then we are told about many other things that happen around.

The author tries to show us that even though the story is really old, It is very relevant in today's times too. I refrain from viewing the book as a religious one. I saw it as a book that tries to advise how life can be lived with reference to the mythological characters.

I ,particularly, am always intrigued by Sita. She is the most dutiful wife who follows her husband through everything including the exile. But still she got tempted by a deer inspite of having been warned by Lakshmana. This is very humane quality and very relatable. You can be very intelligent and smart but temptations can exist and we can be susceptible.

The key highlight for me in this book is how the author define relationships especially between the husband and wife. This delicate relationship is shown very nicely.

Rama is shown to be the leader and how a leader should be. How he makes his decisions and how he weighs his pros and cons as he makes them, are things to be learned by anyone who aspires to be a leader too.

Sita is shown as the princess who has never seen any problems in her life,always had all the luxuries in life, is suddenly faced with exile. She is suddenly thrown out of her comfort zone. How she deals with it , is an inpiration for all of us. She isnt a doormat. She doesnt do things just because she is a dutiful wife. She has a logic and reason for everything.

I also particularly like the relationship showed between Lakshmana and Urmila. Afterall, he chose to follow Rama into exile and Urmila doesnt. She also has her own reason and which is very interesting read.

Overall, the author does manage to tell an inspirational story with lot of footnotes. He doesn't get preachy or too religious which is what is expected out of any mythology read.Shubh Vilas is an spiritual and motivational speaker and the book shows it. I am thoroughly impressed by the way he puts forwards his thoughts but really doesn't seem too imposing.

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Friday, November 21, 2014

The Mahabharata Quest- The Alexander Secret Book Review

The Mahabharata Quest- The Alexander Secret
Christopher C.Doyle
Westland books

I am always wary of fiction which combines history,mythology and science with the contemporary world. I am always a cat on the fence with mythology. Who can say whether they are just stories or factual. Who can say that even if the Mahabharata occurred,the stories are over exaggerated and sometimes fantasised beyond belief.

Same can be said for history. There is no argument that Alexander existed and all that he did is well scripted.but when writers takes Liberty to weave stories from each fact they read, the line between reality and fiction blurs. Now what is true and what isn't becomes a question.

Also famous is the attempt to scientifically explain religious scriptures. Given our cynical approach to everything, we refuse to believe in divinity and look for logic in everything. Every binary makes more sense in this day and age.

I know little of Alexander and my Mahabharata is limited to the B.R.Chopra's TV serials. So I won't even get into arguing whether the author has his facts straight or not.

I find the whole biological aspect of novel, hard to digest. Too much is written and too fast to make it believable for me.

The author shows enough knowledge  to take up history ,science and mythology with authority. No doubt loads of research went into the book.

The narrative of the novel is fast paced and kept me hooked throughout the 348 pages. As the novel easily flits from 316BC to current times , the writing style doesn't tire you or confuse you.
As is my issue with many novels these days, the author doesn't spend too much time in drawing a character graph for all and hence I do t connect or empathise with the characters.
The characters are just puppets and the dead Alexander seems more alive then them. Vijay's dilemma  to save his fiancĂ© and his ex seems to mechanical too. There was a great chance to explore the dynamics and tension between Vijay,Radha and Alice. But the author skims through that aspect awkwardly. I dont expect a soap opera amonst all the adventure but a human angle is always a good connect in a story. Isn't it? Even the killers shown to be brutal and violent, donot evoke the required emotions of fear. The emotional quotient of the book is the only drawback.

But the setup is the hero not the characters. And in that author succeeds to an extent. Mahabharata is always intriguing as it has so many characters and so many layers. Any layer taken is always interesting to delve in.
The secret of this story also is taken from one of the many interesting layers of the Epic.

I sometimes chuckle as Indian Intelligence is shown almost like the Hollywood's Indianised version of FBI. I dont know how IB operates in India but the officers dont look anything like stylish portrayal given to them in the book.

There is enough in the story to keep me thinking and also anticipate the next book in the series.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

God is a Gamer - Book Review

Author: Ravi Subramaniam
Publishers:Penguin books India
Genre: Crime Thriller

I am getting a deja vu as I read this book. I look into the archives and find the review I wrote for the author's previous book

I almost feel I am reading the same thing with different names and obviously different settings. We still have the banking and the financial background and now we have the additional gaming and virtual currency thrown in.

I wont boost of my gaming know-how too much but I am indirectly in this world. I can proudly say that I am game designer wife and every dinner table conversation in my house is about monetisation, gameplay ,hooks and level designing. I have seen the progess of games from console to mobile to social as my husband progressed through them all.  It is a very exciting dinner table conversation I tell you. I wouldnt ever bring my own office talk home.

Anyways, that is just to say that I can review this book with some form of knowledge in the gaming industry. I hate Zynga games and the social games overall though. I am still a AOE console player.

Coming back to the book, it is interesting to say the least. Lot of locations, lot of nationalities and loads of different characters bombard you from the get go. It isnt a simple read. You need to invest some memory to remember all the characters in the book to keep track of the fast paced events happening almost in every few pages.

The story is crisp and interesting but in most parts very predictable. But I didnt feel like putting down the book or not finishing it. I dont finish books just out of compulsion.

Enough big names and designations are thrown in with seeming ease and it kind of hooks you. The bitcoins and the cotton trail web elements are intriguing to an extent. But again almost identical to the previous book, none of the character really appeals to me. The characters run the plot but do nothing to stay on in my mind. I don't remember many names too. Maybe that is a flaw in a story which runs not on the people's perspective but on events happening around them.

The technical terms used in the book are never overwelming. Even though, I am a technical person, I dont really like books to be too heavy on technical jargon. Effortlessly, the writer takes us into the world of bitcoins , TOR , Credit card systems and social gaming and one feels totally at ease with all of them.
A reader is exposed to a new world which usually people dont know or think much about. The drug world and the cotton trail website used for drugs and prostitution actually made me think of it. I know everything can be done on the net but I never really thought of it too seriously.

Overall a good attempt but I am hoping for a fresher and new approach towards the next book Mr. Subramanyiam comes up with. I am already looking forward to it.

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