Midnight’s Children: – “A mind-boggling beauty of Literature “

Midnight's Childern

5/5 Stars

“To understand just one life, you have to swallow the world” ~Salman Rushdie

There’s something to be said about digressions, about the chaos of thoughts one after the other, mingling and colliding like waves of an uneasy ocean. Thoughts disjointed and devoid of sense in their individuality, yet in the end meaningful to each other, like various little pieces of a huge jigsaw puzzle where two pieces could be as different as structurally possible and yet in the end complete each other and ultimately give that final reward ‘Meaning’, ‘Sense’ and of-course the feeling of accomplishment as we gaze at the full picture. The phrase “Learn how to see, Realize that everything connects to everything else” by Da Vinci comes to mind.

The narration of Saleem Sinai in this book gives truth to these words. Before delving into the story and its symbolism then, lets take a look at its structure, there are books written in First person style or a Third person style,  this uses both of them, sometimes Saleem refers directly to himself, sometimes still referring to himself he takes a third person approach, this amalgamation of narration gives this book a unique advantage, it can take philosophical detours and yet stay true to the story, it skews the events keeping the protagonist (in his delusion, truth , fallacy, we never really truly care) at the center of everything . Our hero (for the lack of a better word) is truly fickle in his tale and he admits it freely. This delving into the mind, sifting through thoughts, one moment at the start of something, the next revealing the end prematurely, connecting invisible dots, impossible theories. And you never really question any of it. Continuously in the tale he will give away the end, then delve back through much of his own musings of fantastic philosophies and start the story from the beginning, summarizing for our benefit all that transpired and how it connects (or seems to connect for him). Books that can successfully pull this off are hard to find (maybe “I, Lucifer” by glen Duncan or “The slow regard of Silent things” by Patrick Rothfuss), harder to read as well, not for everybody, the ramblings of a madman truly appeal to the mad, or do they? just to the mad?  The enormous success of this book decorated with “Man Booker Prize (1981), The Booker of Bookers Prize (1993), The Best of the Booker (2008) would suggest otherwise.

Magical Realism or Fabulism call it what you will, was a concept with which I had a passing acquaintance, courtesy of Neil Gaiman & his books “American Gods” and “Anansi Boys“, but to experience it so profoundly was a first, perhaps because I was familiar with the setting (India, Independence and its struggles) or perhaps Salman Rushdie is just a master of this world and his book an absolute masterpiece of this genre. And so we delve into the story which mixes realty and magic and cares not for the truth because “What’s Real and What’s true aren’t necessarily the same“. So,on 15th Aug 1947, when Nehru declared to the world “….At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom…”, along with India awoke 1001 new born children, as special and full of possibilities as the newborn country itself. Midnight’s Children with fabulous potential and special powers of which Saleem perhaps was the greatest. But yet the story doesn’t start there, no sir, it takes 32 years and 170 pages to reach there, the story starts in 1915 Kashmir among rubies, diamonds and a spectacular Nose. With Saleem’s grandfather. To truly understand a person you have to swallow the world indeed. Or as he aptly summarized in the book.

“Who What am I? My answer: I am the sum total of everything that went before me, of all I have been seen done, of everything done-to-me. I am everyone everything whose being-in-the world affected was affected by mine. I am anything that happens after I’ve gone which would not have happened if I had not come.”

You are getting the allure, aren’t you. And so, you hear him out from Kashmir to Bombay to Karachi to Dhaka to Delhi, you hear him out and all the lives that he touched or that touched him. The greatest of which was the nation itself, a life which rivaled history in its incredulity. The symbolism in the story might not be apparent to some, to me it was, but I can totally understand the confusion. The story travels with India on its journey to independence to partition to its flirtations with socialism communism to corruption to its wars of 1947  ’65 ’71 to its period of emergency 1975-77. Narrated by the person who shoulders the responsibility for everything and when I say everything I do mean everything.

The prose style Rushdie has used is marvelous, I have not read many post modern books but, this multitude of awesomeness has convinced me to pay more attention. The literary significance of this work would be apparent to almost everybody who read it. Frustrating is a word I am trying to avoid because generally frustrating books don’t keep me up at nights, when only the inability of my eyes to not stop burning force me against my wishes to give it a rest. So frustrating ,No, complex, Yes, maddening at times, Definitely, Goddamn this book is off the chain, a capital YES. And so this book will have a rare honor in my library, having a 5 star rating and a ‘mind-boggling’ tag. In one of the many reviews I read “This book is Rushdie’s love letter to India” and I concur, that is a most apt analogy, as this book not only celebrates the ‘crowd’ and multitude of concepts that form my country but also embraces the dark side of it, and shows that hope though not always but many a time trumps hate and when it does the result is a chaotic beauty of infinite proportions. I urge everyone to pick this one up, fully realizing that perhaps not everyone will be able to. So, to everyone who does the rewards would be fantabulous but beware ‘Here there be Dragons’.

 

 

The Rise Of SIVAGAMI _1 : – ‘..And Perhaps that of Indian Fantasy too!’

sivagami being badass
“SIVAGAMI DEVI” as played by ‘Ramya Krishnan’ in the Movie ‘BAHUBALI’

“That is my WORD and my word is LAW!”  ~Sivagami Devi

When you see a character who has just slitten the throat of a traitorous general, ordered the death of all the treasonous nobles in the kingdom, declared that SHE will decide who’s to be the next King, with blood still on her face calmly sitting and breastfeeding two young princes in the throne room, the words “Epically Badass” fell short of doing her any kind of justice. That was how we were introduced to ‘The Queen Mother’ of ‘Mahishmathi’ Sivagami Devi in S. S. Rajamouli‘s blockbuster epic ‘Bahubali‘. The character and her fabulous portrayal was riveting.  And thus i suspect started Rajamouli’s dilemma, the world he created, the characters (specially the supporting ones) he introduced were so complex and had a depth that he just couldn’t cover or satisfactorily show in 2 movies. He wanted the world to know them further to live in that world a little more intimately, so, he approached an up and coming author from the south whose previous works he had enjoyed, Mr. Anand Neelakantan, gave him the designation of “Story Hunter” and let him loose to discover and develop the epic world of ‘Mahishmathi’. And thus came to be “The Rise Of SIVAGAMI“, the first installment in what seems to be a worthwhile Indian epic Fantasy trilogy set in the time period before the story of ‘Bahubali’.

The-Rise-of-Sivagami-by-Anand-Neelkantan-Bahubal

3/5 Stars Goodreads Rating System

This was my second book by Anand Neelakantan, The First one “ASURA“, the reason for his widespread fame, didn’t appeal to me all that much and so i was apprehensive about picking up this one. But curiosity got the better of me and i am glad that it did. I won the book in Goodread’s Giveaways and what a ride it has been. Firstly, Watch the movie (i suspect this was a major reason for the commission of this book), Secondly, even if you don’t this will work just fine (But you will watch the movie afterwards anyway, trust me, these are clever clever people indeed.). Anand Neelakantan has a specific way of writing, he loves being on the bad guy’s side, by his own admission this was his first book where he wrote for a positive character but i felt that his habit of coloring things grey has stayed in this one too. Which, adds a splendid ‘anti hero’ flavor to the book. The world of ‘Mahishmathi’ can be experienced in more detail, with its social and power structures sketched out as well as all that ails that world from slavery to the draconian social norms of the ‘Varna System’. The story focuses not only on the three main characters with which the audience(of ‘Bahubali’) would already be familiar with Sivagami, Kattapa (The ever loyal slave) & Bijjala (the arrogant prince) but adds a host of new ones too like ‘Keki the eunuch’ , ‘Skandadasa the deputy prime minister’,’Gundu ram the lovable orphan’, ‘Shivappa the rebel’, ‘Jeemotha the pirate’ and many more. The book unfolds as a series of POV’s so you get to enjoy different characters in their element. The story itself was good though i feel it could have been better, but considering the 108 days deadline (that’s how long he had apparently) you can’t really fault the author. The writing thus feels patchy sometimes with the characters being too obvious in their dialogues, giving a somehow rough feel to the reading experience. But the imagination and expansion of the world was glorious. We get to know some new kingdoms and the overall picture of the power hierarchy among them and the secret to the success of the kingdom of ‘Mahishmathi’.

Other than the awesome tale of ‘Sivagami’ and the brilliant moral conundrums & struggles of ‘Kattapa’, the element that works for the book or rather for the whole trilogy is the suspense of the unanswered questions. How did a girl who wanted to see all the royals dead, ended up being the Queen Mother?  What happened to Bijjala ? What became of ‘Mahadeva’ the young prince and his crush ? What is the ‘Manuscript’ all about ? And Why in the name of all that is possible and impossible did Kattapa did what he did in the End of the movie ? ( I know i am digressing a bit here but well IT is the burning question).

So, yes, i would read the next two. And yes, i feel that these books are a welcome addition to the Indian Fantasy genre. I just hope Mr. Neelakantan uses a bit more finesse in the upcoming ones. The books are quite alluring, and i suspect after the release of the next and final movie (This April’s end i am told) that allure would go up ten fold. So, read on my dear friends and experience the glory of this fantastical world. “Jai! ‘Mahishmathi'” (Hail! ‘Mahishmathi’).

 

Mistborn: The Final Empire :- ‘An epic tale of epic proportions’

Mistborn-The Final Empire

4/5 Stars Goodreads Rating System

“Plots behind plots, plans behind plans. There was always another secret.” ~Brandon Sanderson, The Final Empire

Ahh the pure wonder and chaos of a brilliantly written, location neutral, completely new world, of High Fantasy. I was made aware of Brandon Sanderson as the person chosen to complete “The Wheel of Time” saga,which is hailed as ‘one of the greatest epics of fantasy’ (And Which i have still not picked up, i know, i know, but 11000 pages my friends, that is a big commitment.).  So, this was my first ever Sanderson novel (don’t roll your eyes i know i have a lot of catching up to do) and it was glorious.

Epic and specially high fantasy books have more or less a standard story structure, a world in trouble, a Dark lord, an innocent hero/heroine unaware of his/her abilities with a tough life, a brilliant teacher or guide who shows them the way. Darkness vs the light, Might vs Right and so on and so forth. But the real allure of fantasy isn’t its predictable theme but its awesome creation of well..Creation, a completely different world with its own set of rules, lives, people and troubles. Be it ‘Lord of the Rings’, Be it ‘Game of Thrones’ or Be it Hogwarts and ‘Harry Potter’,  The world of “Mistborn” is one such brilliantly created world, where magic makes sense in its own way. Mr. Sanderson has kept the writing uncomplicated, using the brilliance of its plots and depths of its characters as the main attraction to rope in readers and it works out spectacularly.

The Story follows ‘Kelsier’ (our hero and guide) and ‘Vin’ (our heroine and budding student) in a world where the tyrant ‘Lord Ruler’ has ruled for a 1000 years as an Immortal God, a ‘Sliver of infinity’. Subjugating the people known as ‘Skaa’ for as long as anyone can remember, in his realm the ‘Final Empire’. The story i have to admit was interesting, more so was the way magic works, ‘Allomancy’ and ‘Feruchemy’ , their association with metals, their rules and restrictions were all very brilliantly constructed. The way ‘Mistborns’ work in the story will leave you with the same sense of wonder that ‘Wizards’ did in ‘Harry Potter’. And that’s not all, the best part was its Characters , the outfit of ‘Misting’ Thieves and their different personas was quite enjoyable, half the fun in any novel i believe is how lively the characters are, how interesting and different, well developed and engrossing. The Charming and confident ‘Kelsier’ , The smooth and sly ‘Breeze’, the soft spoken gentleman butler ‘Sazed’ and of-course the strong and ever conflicted ‘Vin’. Mr. Sanderson has started something awesome with this book and i sincerely hope that the awe it inspires will continue in the trilogy as i read further. Another thing that i loved was that although this book leaves you curious as to ‘What next’, it doesn’t compel you to pick up the next one immediately, with all its unanswered questions it still very effectively stands alone, without giving you the annoyance of a cliffhanger. Soak it in and move on to the next one at your leisure,  it almost seems to say. Much appreciated sir, very much appreciated.

I recommend this to every fantasy lover, this is a genuinely pleasurable read, simple, sorted and brilliant. With all the right flavors of an enjoyable High Fantasy.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things

slowregard

3/5 Stars Goodreads Rating System

This story is for all the slightly broken people out there. I am one of you. You are not alone. You are all beautiful to me.” ~Patrick Rothfuss

Now wait a god damn minute…you were not supposed to say that damn it, that was supposed to be implicit, an unsaid understood thing, now you have labeled us for the world. Why!! Don’t you know we like the obscurity?, of-course you do, you aptly named the story “The Slow Regard of Silent Things” for crying out loud,… damn you Patrick.

This is not a novel, it is not a continuation of The Kingkiller Chronicle  saga, so of-course some people would be disappointed, on that account i am too, the wait i assure you IS slowly BUT surely killing me too. But Mr.Rothfuss has been upfront about this, you won’t understand this if you have not read his previous works, even if you have you can probably live without this. He has given ample opportunities to people for backing off. And to be honest i could have lived without the “Author’s Endnote” you had no reason to defend this Mr.Rothfuss.

Now,on with the extended ‘Character study’, because, lets be honest that’s what it is. And just to clarify, it’s BRILLIANT. ‘Auri’ had intrigued me ever since she was introduced in the tale of ‘KVOTHE’, she was mysterious, sweet, silent, brooding, completely bonkers and full of life. Well at the end of this little story she remains all that (still ‘mysterious’ to my utter annoyance, so many unanswered questions). This story depicts a week in Auri’s life, it doesn’t give away her past, neither her future, nor her many many mysteries ,but what it does is, it gives you a look inside her head, how she perceives things, how she thinks, functions, decides, judges, lives. And to know all that about someone as special a character as Auri is very rewarding. It has been 4 years since i read ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ so to get back into that world took some pages, and revisiting the summary of the previous books but after that this little jaunty story was a treat. I was fully prepared to not like it, but i just couldn’t help but love it. When you start to empathize with a character like Auri, when her little conversations with inanimate objects start to make sense to you, her thinking and ‘way of things’ seem beautiful to you then one of two things are happening either you have completely lost your marbles (i mean to be fascinated by the story of a loner mad little girl,really..) or something in you has truly resonated with her life (NOT i tell you a flattering experience), in any case after reading it you look in the mirror and say “Shit!”.

The story is written with a single minded focus on Auri, and her world alone, all the side plots of Kingkiller Chronicles are mute and void in her world, the whole of the 104 pages(Kindle edition) are dedicated to her and her ‘way of things’, its beautiful in a way, frustrating in another but pure somehow, innocent. We have come to enjoy fantasy for its immense and impossible complexities, its dark or hilarious aspects of plots and characters ,in that regard this was completely different. People expecting another awesome tale like that of ‘KVOTHE’ would perhaps find this boring. But Auri is not Kvothe , she is uniquely Auri. And though i expect that in the final book of the series we might finally have all the jigsaw puzzles about Auri’s life. This was a welcome addition to her tale.

I liked this story but i am somehow unable to explain why properly, so maybe i will just end this with another quote from the book which might be as true for this little story then for what it was originally meant for

To be so lovely and so lost. To be all answerable with all that knowing trapped inside. To be beautiful and broken.”