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Friday, January 31, 2014

Book Review : ‘India Was One’ by An Indian

India was One’, a story by an Indian is all I ever found out about this tale. I had no idea, who the author was. The essence of this odd story is that it comes to me, at a rather weird time, personally. Because I am Indian and I live in Andhra Pradesh, too. Hyderabad, a city where I have lived is now kind of figuring it out if it belongs to AP or Telangana. So, I guess this story has a meaning for me too.

Well, let’s start from the beginning. The story begins with Jai, the protagonist, who is in college. Girl comes into the picture, they meet and they get married. Of course, we should not miss the friends, the parental support and of course, there’s cricket and Sachin, as well. All very convenient and nice. One cannot miss the links to the different states of India. Almost everyone is from a different state, and the author puts in brief notes, with a little about the places they are from. Then, we follow him and his wife to Rajasthan, where again we have details and notes about the state. 

After that, we fly to the US where Jai has to work. He moves in to a nice place with his wife, and we are introduced to the country, its states, its geography, its roads and its sports. Friends, families and earthquakes are all a part of Jai and Kahani’s life in the USA. A trip to Europe as well, for a holiday! What is interesting is the artwork and descriptions of the new countries. It is a good guide if you plan to visit or live in the US. And visit Rajasthan and Europe. Not comprehensive but a very well- written guide.

As we settle into the US again, Thanksgiving and all, we are suddenly jolted awake thanks to India splitting into two. We have the North India and the South India. It is a strange kind of a division, but which is not? :) So, we have the hero in South India and the heroine in North India.

Communication is shut, so there go the phones, the television and the internet. So, both of them head to India, heroine to Ahmedabad and the hero to Mumbai. Luckily, for the two of them, both their places are intact and safe. Jai reaches Mumbai to discover that his parents are safe and at home and her parents are in Mumbai, as well. Kahani has reached Ahmedabad only to notice that her parents are not.

The army is the only organisation, which seems to be in place since it is the only body, which is keeping the peace, in spite of the civil war. Mumbai is suddenly, attacked by Pakistani terrorists and the famous Taj hotel is taken over by them. What happens when the army intervenes? How the husband and wife who are separated get back together form the rest of this story.

While I read the whole thing in a day, what kept me going was the interest which the author manages to raise. India, America and Europe are described wonderfully well. Though there are no words of beauty, but I would still look up on this book, as a guide to living abroad. It is an honest book, and though the story itself is not gripping, or suspenseful it still manages to hold on and stay with you till the end.

Though there are times when I thought that the plot was a little too simplistic, I could understand why the author was choosing certain twists to make his point. It would take a varied lot of people who can adapt to the story and truly understand it. But to some, it might mean nothing at all.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Editing… Its Necessity. Its Importance.

Books, books and more books. I did not know that I would get a chance to review so many of them, but I’d still like more… 

The one thing I have noticed about a few books was the need to be edited. I have read quite a few of them, and the need for editing was very less, and the text, which made up the book, was the author’s own. Yet, I have also read books, in which I did not see too much editing, and needed it, desperately.

It is kind of strange when as a reader, I feel the need to tell the author that his book needs some work. Perhaps his own and sometimes the editor’s. Because that was the editor’s job. Editing it. It could be as simple as proofreading, and simple sentences which, need to be obviously changed but that seemed missing. 

There is the gap between what the author has to do and what the editor has to. An author’s first job is to see that his book is totally error free, at least. It is not the editor’s job to see that, it is the author’s. As Amish Raj Mulmi, Hachette’s editor says, ‘Edit what you’ve written. Once you’ve written your ‘book’, edit everything.’
There are quite a few books I have read, (not just now, when I am reviewing, but also earlier, when I just read a book for fun) that could have done with an editor’s hand. 

‘To me, the editing of fiction is an organic process, a back-and-forth exchange, in which both author and editor benefit from listening as well as speaking/writing. It becomes a building process, often deepening or enriching what already exists, in the best case making sublime what had been merely adequate, when an author is led to reimagine or create anew, rather than just make repairs ’ said Faith Sale, “Editing Fiction as an Act of Love.” 

Collaboration is important here. There are a lot of editors who feel that the best of a book comes out when a healthy association is maintained with the author. ‘I enjoy working with words and engaging with a writer, coming to understand how her mind works and how she sees the ideas in the book,’ says HarperCollins editor, Ajitha GS.

At the end of the day, the editor’s job is to make the book better.  Their job is to challenge the writer, so that the author gets his job done, and writes it brilliantly. The editor’s job will probably not get him the credit he deserves but as long as your book is appreciated and admired, his job is done. :)

If you edit it, or have it edited, you are working towards seeing it through. J RussellLynes once said, ‘No author dislikes to be edited as he dislikes not to be published.’

Monday, January 27, 2014

Book Review : ‘The Bone Season’ by Samantha Shannon

We might keep the JK Rowling similarities at rest. Samantha Shannon was just 19 when she first wrote ‘The Bone Season’. She probably did not expect Bloomsbury to buy the book rights and not just that, but Andy Serkis’ production house to got the movie rights! Okay, I know all that was big enough to get everybody’s attention, but that is not what ‘The Bone Season’ was all about.
The heroine Paige Mahoney who is only 19, (the author’s age, am guessing, she looks like Paige ) but she has her own ways to win us over. I had an odd sense of Enid Blyton when I started the book; this probably had to do with the strange walks, which Paige takes in London. 

Paige, who lives in the middle of London, and purportedly works an ‘ossista’ in an oxygen bar, but actually has a job with a crime syndicate, and is part of the Seven Seals. The year is 2059.  Paige’s speciality is walking in the aether and into people's minds, looking for information. Confusing? Have some flavoured oxygen, perhaps instead of the illegal caffeine and alcohol. 

Well, that’s what it’s all about. The supernatural realm is what we enter, when we open this book. Dreamwalkers, mediums, soothsayers, jumpers, nercomancers are just a glimpse into what this book contains. As we follow Paige’s adventures, we are caught up in the Scion regime, which is known for the oppression of the unnatural.

So, Paige is arrested, and when she tries to escape, kills an ‘underguard’ in the process. She is sent away to Oxford, (an abandoned city, when the Scion develops). And, we are introduced to the cruel Suzerain Nashira led Rephaites, who’s food are the human clairvoyants and the Emim who just prefer to be the flesh eating kind. Here, we see blood consort of Nashira, the yellow eyed Warden Arcturus, who takes on Paige as his forced pupil. 

How she takes to the alternate universe, makes friends and importantly enemies, how she hatches the plan to get out of the ugly and morose world Oxford form the rest of this morbid tale.

This fantasy fiction manages to draw you in, and you find it difficult to get out of this land between sleepwalkers and overseers. Not at first go though, but somewhere in the middle. Shannon puts you inside and says to the reader to fend for himself, but she does not let you go that easily in the wrong direction. Shannon has put in a lot of new words and meanings. The dictionary is an excellent plan of hers.

She also used a lot of authors and real life in her plan. Firstly, she seems quite influenced by Stephenie Meyer, and her vision of vampires. Her use of Warden and Nick, a cross between Edward Cullen and Jacob Black, and the various English Queens and their consorts seem like Nashira and Warden. The rebel in Paige again is influenced by Bella from Twilight, not exactly though but one can look for the similarities. Also, the manner in which she fights for everything is a little like George from the Famous Five series.

Oh and one other point, I do not see ‘yesterday night’ in page 271, fitting in. That just seems wrong!          
Besides that, the book is brilliant for someone of her age. Of course, there is the editor’s help, but talent of that standard cannot be missed. Her grip of the language and the wish to see the book through are all striking. I cannot imagine how she will see six more of these through, but I am looking forward to them, for sure.
Author:  Samantha Shannon
Jacket Design: David Mann
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN : 978-1-4088-5245-3
Price: Rs 499

Friday, January 24, 2014

Book Review : ‘Heaven and Hell Alliance: all rules go loose’ by BS Sarwagna Kumar

This book took me one day to finish and I am thankful for that. I do not know how to begin, but I have a problem with the language used in the book and with the editing. 

Well, let’s begin. About a thousand years ago, two brothers who have their own kingdoms, fight because the elder one, Andriel wants both the kingdoms under his rule. So, the war begins and both of them die. And luckily, for him though he and his brother Sam end up in hell, where they turn into demons, he falls in love with Jessie Bongers, who is an angel. 

The angel, who was in love with Andriel before his death manages to rescue the two brothers. The two, who have set aside their differences, settle down on earth. Incidentally, Yash who is also an angel also moves to earth due to her differences with Azariel, an archangel. That’s another love story in the making, Yash and Sam!

The whole world turns upside down and the confusion for the reader mounts. God, angels, demons, humans, witches, ancestors, descendants and their souls and the whole so-called fantasy of the author’s seems to be a messy muddle. 
The title was unfortunately confusing, as well. His characters are too many and it could have ended much earlier too. If you can make any sense of the review that’s great but I did not understand this novel, at all and hence this review.

BS Sarwagna Kumar definitely has a keen interest in writing and one can see that, but it lacks a certain characterization and meaning. While, Kumar’s attempt can be appreciated, his novel seems childish, at best. It could have done with a lot of editing and I do not mean just the language. 

Author: BS Sarwagna Kumar
Cover Design: Mishta Roy
Layout: Panwar Media Services
Genre: Fiction/Romance
Publisher: Leadstart Publishing
ISBN : 9-78-93-83562-21-3
Price: Rs 150 (India) $7 (US)