Monday, October 8, 2012

Thundergod: The Ascendance of Indra - Book Review


                Rajiv G Menon’s debut novel, ‘Thundergod : The Ascendance of Indra’ is a bout of relief amidst the various attempts at handling mythology by his contemporaries. While the plot draws a sigh out of you; yet another story based on yet another character out of Indian mythology. The neat narration that doesn’t lose pace (or gore for that matter) has you hooked until the end. The language is clean, save for a few bumps that I shall talk about in a minute.

                The book details the birth and rise of Indra as the king of Devas and in time, ascend to being god of thunder. What begins as a journey of vengeance, takes him through his self as a barbarian who works to become king, then the ultimate warrior, leader of brother tribes, slayer of evil and eventually graduate as a god, literally relocating to heaven, so he could keep a protective watch over lesser mortals.

                This journey as you can imagine, is not easy. Why and how Indra tackles life and his destiny is what the novel attempts to convey. Proceeding to the dissection :

Warning : This review contains spoilers. You might want to read the book first, if you don't wish to know them beforehand.

What worked for me:
1. The plot, events and narration in general. One thing leads to another naturally and the author takes us through in a logical pace.

2. Short chapters that makes it easy to navigate.

3. Subtle humour that runs along, without getting cocky.

4. I liked the names of Indra’s friends; the fact that they happen to be named so and acquire their powers only later on. The author plays a clever hand here.

What did not work for me:
1. Inspite of an interesting plotline and good narration, this book can actually be summarized in one equation : Sex + War (Die Hard style). If someone isn’t cutting someone else’s head off, or disemboweling an army, they are jumping into each others’ arms.
                  *  There are women of all sorts – goddesses, slaves, wives and friends, using sex as the only weapon to either humiliate Indra & Co or to supposedly attempt to defeat them. At one point it just got plainly queasy and felt like the author had run out of imagination. Granted, our ancestors lived literally like animals but detailed explanations everytime and the frequency only made the author sound like an ancient version of E.L.James.
                 *  If you held the book sideways and squeezed it hard, you could most definitely collect a bucket of blood and gory body parts. Ruthless killing in the name of war happens page after page. No wonder history is so violent! Be warned of possible nightmares if you sit on this one late.

2. There are atleast a hundred names in here. And a few hundred more for animals and weapons even. They all end up sounding very very alike, and sometimes even gender-neutral. I had a tough time placing Ur-Uruk and Ugra. Wait, did I get it right?

3. The war sequences are presented in excruciating detail. While watching it on screen would be easy on your imagination, reading about it line by line, grows tedious after a hundred pages.  Those sequences could have been trimmed. And, the mission of Indra, describes the need  to unite the sons of Aditi. Sadly, you have to dig that act up amidst descriptions of a hundred other battles.

4. The blurb wonders whether Indra would ever get the one woman he loves, to love him back again. There is no description of any such attempt in the book. She hates him after a terrible incident and that's it. They drift apart. Later he comes to know she considers him dead and he just let's her go. For someone he claimed as his true love, this was simply lack of effort and interest. Why?

5. The biggest thorn in this books fictional flesh, is the phrase ‘Unlike the world had ever seen’. Take my word for it when I say, that phrase appears atleast 675 times in this book. I admit, the number is exaggerated, but that is how magnificently annoying it was. It reminded me of Harold Bloom’s review of Harry Potter, where he claims JKR had over used the phrase ‘Stretched his legs’. One more occurrence and the book could have been renamed. Thundergod –Unlike the world had ever seen!

Verdict:
Thundergod is a good and interesting narrative. It guarantees a read that will take you from cover to cover, having to make only a few pitstops enroute. Definitely commendable for a debut.  Pick it up when you are in the mood for a history lesson that holds the promise of a roller coaster ride.

Rating : 3.5/5


Image courtesy : Flipkart.com

P.S : Incase you are wondering how I was able to review the book when it is due for release only later this month - Abracadabra! Read below :)

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Did you like this review? Do you agree with the points expressed? Or not? Drop in a comment. Let's discuss  :)


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Wake up call

      After 14 years of school and six years of college, I woke up this morning at 6 for the only purpose of reading. Not 'studying', or mugging up Physics definitions or trying to find my way through a calculus problem only to finally end up staring at the wall opposite that suddenly seemed far more interesting than any of the information in print. Back then my early morning trysts with existence would start out as an elaborately laid out plan of how exactly I would spend each minute toiling over earning that extra point in the exams so I could be a state topper. This morning I started out with practically no plan and ended up enjoying my reading session like never before. Perhaps the absence of an examination system breathing down my neck or the absence of submission deadlines (even my library has no reading deadlines! How awesome is that? :) ) has finally set me free. 

                 The pretty early morning picture I painted mirrored the ones I managed to create in school, one that succeeded in atleast giving others around me, the illusion of serious study. Except, today I was surrounded -  by Jeffrey Eugenides and Georgette Heyer on one side, a few debut authors on the other, Salman Rushdie knocking on my laptop screen from the inside and Fredereick Neitzsche waving at me from my Kindle, along with a couple of other geniuses. Unlike those years of academic rut, I didn't find the attendance overwhelming, rather happily flitted about from one to another, reading a few pages of each and marking down observations. It was a well earned bout of relief from trying to sketch the insides of a mitochondrion, even while explaining to myself why DC is better then AC or attempting to understand how Tamil poetry whitewashes over polygamy. 

                Over the years, I have cribbed about the education system and how even to this day, it does not achieve much with the majority of us beyond teaching the art of learning by rote. Institutional Education throughout time, in my opinion, has only been an attempt at control over chaos. It wouldn't bode well with the politics of the human mind, if most of the world was composed of free thinkers would it? These systems are akin to anaesthetics, I would say. Each of us metabolize anaesthetics over different times, meaning, some of us wake up early. To what and how, is what makes us who we are. 

               To cut a long write up short, education does not happen inside text books. It happens via everything else outside it, what we simply call life. If there is one and one thing only that I am thankful for, with respect to the system, it is for teaching me to read and write. The mechanics of it, not the 'how you are supposed to' part. For it is that ability that opened up my heart and mind to what I love the most. 

              Waking up early to read a bunch of books and write about how each one matters. 


How about you? Did the system put you to sleep or are you amongst the ones that managed to wake up? Drop in a comment. Let's discuss :)