The Curse of Surya – Dev Prasad – Book Review


TheCurseOfSuryaGoodreads blurb: Sangeeta Rao, a beautiful, feisty reporter at Channel 7 TV in Singapore, rushes to Agra on a special assignment after an early-morning phone call. At the Taj Mahal, she meets Alan Davies, a charming Welshman. But a terrorist attack on Mathura’s renowned Krishna temple turns them into fugitives from justice and the duo must decipher a series of complex cryptographs and unearth the illustrious Shyamantaka that belonged to Surya, the Sun God, to prove their innocence. Joined in their quest by an elderly Frenchman, Anton Blanchard, the duo race against time in helicopters, motor boats and yachts. In hot pursuit are the brilliant and daring SP Nisha Sharma and the most ruthless terrorist organizations. Before she realizes it, Sangeeta is trapped in a world of betrayal, deceit and horror. Fast-paced and gripping, The Curse of Surya will keep you hooked and on the edge of your seat while you unravel one of the biggest mysteries in 5000 years.

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Cliches are good, in the sense that they can be used by authors to help readers easily understand that point they are trying to make. But resorting to clichés in each and every page of your book; not such a great idea. And that precisely is the problem that The Curse of Surya by Dev Prasad suffers from. Overuse of clichés, and a reliance on too many coincidences to keep the plot moving forward.

While the premise of the narrative is interesting – that of the famed Syamantaka gem and its story (on which I have written an entire series of blog posts, read the first one here), the treatment meted out by the author to how the story moves is where it is a big letdown. For regular readers who have read the likes of Dan Brown, Matthew Reilly or for that matter our very own Ravi Subramanian, and are familiar with how the ‘thriller’ genre of books work, this book is a ‘cop out’, for lack of a better term to use.

I mean, how else would you explain the usage of the following clichés (and even some technologically impossible things) – love at first sight by an otherwise seemingly smart reporter, mobile phone signals and GPS signals working perfectly well in high seas, GPS signals working fine underwater, voice enabled radio communication within scuba diving suits, convenient use of ‘red herrings’ throughout the book and finally ending with the worst cliché of all, that of the protagonist finally finding the true love that she didn’t even know she had been searching for.

While this book is a brave and even a competent attempt by the author to marry fiction with mythology, it suffers due to the lack of a proper editorial process. I fully lay the blame for the shoddy end product that this book ends up being on the editorial team in charge of finalizing the manuscript and putting it out there on the book shelves.

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A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers in return for a honest and unbiased review of the same.

Children, Women, Men – Sundara Ramaswamy – Book Review


ChildrenWomenMenGoodreads blurb: This intricately woven narrative is one of the landmark novels of Indian modernism.

This ambitious novel, teeming with characters, focuses on the family of Srinivasa Aiyar or SRS, who moves from his ancestral house in Alapuzhai in Kerala, to the more modern Kottayam, before returning to his wife Lakshmi’s home in Nagercoil in Tamil Nadu. Set in the late 1930s and reflecting the political and social turmoil of the pre-war years, it chronicles the psychological conflict between SRS and his nine-year-old son, Balu; the moral struggle of a young widow, Anandam, as she considers remarriage; and the political journey of Sridaran, who chooses to break off his studies in England in order to join nationalist activities at home.

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I am not a big fan of poetry per se. Not that I have anything against verse, it’s just that I don’t quite get it, that’s all. But when I finished reading Children, Women, Men by Sundara Ramaswamy I somehow ended up feeling that I had just finished reading a poem. Yes, the story of Srinivasa Aiyar (SRS) and his family set in rural Tamil Nadu/Kerala of the 1930s is nothing short of lyrical or poetic in the way it has been woven and narrated.

Very few authors have the innate ability to bring to life in front of readers’ eyes places, events, characters and their stories from a different time period. And that too when the time period involved is completely different from what readers are accustomed to, the author has to walk a fine tightrope between devoting too much time and words to the settings and the characters and the narrative itself. And this precisely is where Su Raa (as the author is called in Tamil Nadu) excels. The narrative, its setting, the characters and the overall feel of the book is so universal in its nature that not for one moment did I feel out of place at all.

Another area where the book scores really high would be on the ‘universality’ of its theme. In fact, as the famous saying goes the more things change, the more they remain the same and this statement rings so true to me after having read this book. Themes such as the rigidity of a patriarchal society, the lack of empowerment of women and widows, youngsters and teenagers coming of age and trying to break firmly held beliefs and status quo in society, parents struggling to bring up their children appropriately, children being scared of their strict disciplinarian parents, are adroitly dealt with in this book. And true to its name, the narrative follows the sequence of children, women and men in its points of view.

While the book itself reads like a television serial in terms of the fact that there is no single overarching narrative arc to it, and is more like a collection of episodes from the lives of the various characters, it works really well in this book primarily due to the fact that each of the characters have been dealt with in a relatively detailed manner, with none of them being short-changed. Equal importance has been given even to minor characters and their traits and motivations and actions which keep the narrative moving are clear and unambiguous throughout the book.

A must read for anybody who enjoys a grand narrative which is very strongly grounded in the reality of the day and deals with human emotions in an extremely mellow and sensitive manner.

Click here to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].

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Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was offered to me by the publisher in return for a honest and unbiased review.

The Edge of Reason – Book Review


For some funny reason I really don’t remember what prompted me to decide to read this book and order it online. Having said that I personally believe that buying this book and actually ending up reading it and finishing it in one go (ie, without putting down the book to pick up another book to read) has benefited me in multiple ways.

(1) This book has rekindled the interest in reading books by the dozen yet again and I have started making a list of the next 5-6 books that I want to read

(2) This book has rekindled the spark of curiosity in me which I believe had died down over the course of the last few years

(3) This book not only makes me want to read more, but also write more which I am hoping will end up in generating more blog posts such as this one and make me more of a regular writer / blogger.

To get to the book itself, it deals with Cosmology which Wikipedia defines as the academic discipline that seeks to understand the origin, evolution, structure, and ultimate fate of the Universe at large, as well as the natural laws that keep it in order. Wow, while I know that is a heavy definition with big words, big concepts, suffice to say that most of my understanding of the origin of our Universe began and ended with The Big Bang Theory (not the TV series, but the actual cosmological concept). And guess what it turns out that most modern cosmology is indeed dominated by The Big Bang Theory.

This book, The Edge of Reason (called “The Edge of Physics: A Journey to Earth’s Extremes to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe” outside of India) is part travelogue, part documentary-style writing which takes the author Anil Ananthaswamy from the tip of Mount Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano in Hawaii to deep mines in Minnesota, from Lake Baikal in Siberia to McMurdo Station in Antarctica, from the underground Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland to Mount Saraswathi in Ladakh. The author goes to these places to talk to the scientists, physicists, cosmologists and astronomers regarding to get more details regarding some of the experiments that they are conducting to answer questions regarding the origins of the universe.

While documenting his travels, the author describes in great detail the locations of these experiments, the rationale behind the choice of these varied locations, basic tenets of the experiments being conducted, descriptions of the questions that these experiments are trying to answer, as well as the history behind some of these questions themselves. This book manages to give us an insight into the brilliant minds of the physicists and cosmologists who asked these questions in the first place. In many ways, this book is a tribute to all those pioneer cosmologists who dared to ask the questions which nobody else asked, who dared to question the status-quo of existing theories regarding the origins of the universe, and some of the answers to the questions asked have the potential to radically change our existing knowledge regarding the cosmos itself.

It has to be agreed that this book requires a certain degree of knowledge of and interest in basic physics to be read. Also, the reader has to have the patience of actually slowing down, re-reading paragraphs and pages to put together complicated theories and concepts of cosmology. That being said, Anil Ananthaswamy manages to take the reader on a wonderful joyride around the world and also manages to paint quite a vivid picture of modern day cosmology. In fact, I would bet that more interest would be generated in this field if schools and colleges around the world made this book a part of their libraries and if possible, a part of their list of suggested readings in Physics.

A wonderful book which is a travelogue, cosmology reference guide (at a very basic level), introductory guide to some of the most profound ideas of cosmology and its propounders. A really good read.

Related links

Indiaplaza link to purchase the book in India

Flipkart link to purchase the book in India

Amazon link to purchase the book in the US

Name The edge of reason : Dispatches from the frontiers of cosmology
Author/s Anil Ananthaswamy
Publisher Penguin India
Year published 2010
ISBN 13 9780143066705
Goodreads link Link
Flipkart link Link
Amazon link Link