21 April 2017

[Book Review] 'Fables from India', 'Memories of Ice' and 'Name of the Wind'


Memories of Ice (Malazan Book of the Fallen #3)


TL/DR: If you have read fantasy before and you liked it, drop everything and read this series. Warning: these are big books and they suck time. Well worth it.

My review of Book 1 in the series, Gardens of the Moon, is available here. What should I add except that the series seems to get impossibly better with each book? The book revolves around the rise of the mysterious Pannion Domin and the several forces (literally multiple armies) that align against it. We get to know more about why some characters are what they are, and the author keeps that as interesting as any showdown this book has. The writing is quite good - not as great as some fantasy legends - but the plot(s), character development and how everything comes together - leagues ahead of anything else I've read.

Wars, Magic, Sentiment, Dragons, Humour, Honour (Itkovian! Onos Toolan!) ... this series is everything done right.

Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles #1)

TL/DR: I liked the book & the writing for the most part. I liked the world building, the sections at Kvothe's Inn, the sections at the University and the last 50 pages or so. Rest of the book was unfortunately boring.

I'd like to think I didn't like the book as much simply because of my high expectations from Rothfuss, thanks to every friend who reads fantasy quoting this as a favourite. Finally got around to reading it. The first 100 pages aren't terribly interesting (aka boring) because the author takes his time introducing readers to Kvothe, his world, his parents, his education etc. I see why he decided to do this - the guy's kind of a know it all - so the author wants to convey how he learned every damn thing so that the story's believable later on. But to someone reading without that context, it comes across as a bit boring.

Denna, the woman behind the story - or so we're told - is another person who sucks pages and pages without really telling us anything. Yes, I got it in the first two times that she's difficult to track, but it's repeated once every 10 pages.

Events surrounding the Waystone Inn, where the protagonist conveys his life's story to the Chronicler, are fun. Events at the University are even better. The last 50 pages or so are quite cool too. It's worth a read ( & I will read Book 2 soon), but if you don't like to skip paragraphs and pages, get ready for a fairly tedious ride to get to the good bits.

Fables from India - Uday Mane

TL/DR: Not fun for adults who already read other books. Fully in text. So may not be interesting to kids either. The stories themselves are well intentioned even if entirely predictable.

I got this book from Flipkart in exchange for an honest review. Here goes.

I like the general idea of new fables and was intrigued when I got the option to review the book, but was left disappointed with the quality of work that helped put this together. The author has come up with fairly decent stories - a straight up attempt to go the Tinkle / ACK route, but in plain text. This could have been better off as an illustrated version targeted at children. The stories, if you look at them from that point of view (that of children), don't disappoint. The book may not be interesting to adults.

List of things that could have done with some help: Writing, grammar and general structuring of the fables. All of which I lay at the feet of the editor rather than the author.


26 October 2016

Book Review: Skyfire (2016), by Aroon Raman

TL/DR: 
The first Aroon Raman book I've read. Met expectations. I'm going to read the others he's written.

Review:
The book started off with two very different issues - child trafficking & weather manipulation - and managed to tie them up well. A well told story in all, with none of the characters resorting to superhuman stunts - keeping the action sequences believable. The plot & story direction was quite predictable from the initial chapters, but it was still fun to read. 


Despite the book being a part of a series involving the lead characters, the author has ensured that it's a fine standalone read on its own - which is great. Bringing in a character from the previous book (Shadow Throne), explaining who he is & not including him in the rest of the book was weird.


The occasional Hindi kept reminding me that this was a local novel. If not for some typos & incorrect phrasing, it'd have been a complete immersive experience. 


Spoiler: 
The standard ego of the villain that makes him explain all his plans to the heroes, and his absolute refusal to just kill them applies in this book too. Not a fan of that personally. The mentioned reasons didn't work for me. Just shoot them all down already.


Link to the review on GR here. Follow me there for future reviews. 
Buy the book on Amazon here.

PS:  I'm also thinking of blogging about my Quillr-building experience soon. Is there anything you want me to write about?


26 July 2015

The Wanderer


Sticky feet 
Or sticky ground.
I cannot see.
I try to reason.
I need reason on my side.

I cannot see, of course.
It is dark. And cold.
No option to stop and check.
The darkness is such a place.
You keep walking. 
Or you don't get to.

I pray. That my feet be sticky.
Though I know where I am.
Exactly where I am.
I know the ground 
that sticks to one's feet.
It was a myth. Was.
Not anymore.
I've heard about it.
I've read about it.

I look around. Nonchalantly.
I keep walking.
I see darkness. All around me.
What else do you see,
when you walk in the dark?
And yet, there! A glint.
One more. And one more!
To my left, behind me.
Darker than dark.
That shine the dark alone possesses.
A shrine to the One we don't speak of.

I pray I see two of them. Or four.
Yet three there were.
As was written.
Three giant sections,
shining examples of the night -
each much wider than a house.
each much taller than our city gates.
The gates of Azzen.
Each with the unchanging glint
That consumed darkness
and perfectly reflected it.
It was an impossibility. Was.
The rumours were true then.

Three there were!
Three they were.
I counted again.
My last count. Three.
I drop my prayers.
The ground is stickier.
As is its nature.
I was one slip away
from joining the darkness.
For eons, if not forever.

One mistake away. Just one.
That is all they wait for.
Three there were,
the eyes of the Spider.
The ever attentive, ever focussed
black eyes of the Lord himself.
Focussed on me.

Far removed from logic,
My brethren would say.
Yet here he was.
Lord Spider, Warrior of Darkness.
And I'd wandered into his web.

-

Inspired by this line in the first Malazan book, 'Gardens of the Moon' by Steven Erikson.

"Somewhere in this strange place
a spider waits
for my panicked flight ..."


10 December 2014

Ajaya Book 1: Roll of the Dice, by Anand Neelakantan

When I got Book 1 of Ajaya from Leadstart for the review (thank you for that!), I thought it would take me forever to sit through the book. But no, I finished it one fine Saturday.

I am not too keen usually about books laced with religion, songs and pages of praise as dialogues. Especially most of them on Ramayana or Mahabharatha. I'm also not keen about books that change the storylines of epics to present alternate points of view.

This book is none of that. This one is different.

Anand Neelakantan manages to take all the superhuman, illogical & divine elements out of the storyline without affecting the storyline much, leaving us with the crux of the story. In Mahabharatha's case, that includes the strategic moves and dreams of the various players in the kingdom, and what they do about it.

The first book focuses more on the the Caste system of the time than anything else - and naturally, the main players in the scene are Duryodhana (Suyodhana, the author calls him - and there's a line of research that claims it was his actual name), Arjuna, Parashurama, Krishna, Shakuni, Vidhura, Bhishma, Jara and the Nagas, apart from two of the most inspirational stories from the epic - that of Ekalavya the talented and Karna, the King of Anga.

The storyline for Book:1 extends from the time the Kuru princes are children up until Shakuni's fateful dice game that more or less confirms the great war. The basic storyline doesn't really require any reviews, least of all from me. It's an epic that has stood the test of time, with its characters idolised in temples and pagodas across South & East Asia. That includes Duryodhana and Anand's work tries to explain the good in him and how even the best of men can err.

For he truly was, as has been my stand for quite some time now - despite his flaws. History has always belonged to the winners and the losers are demonized, deservedly or otherwise. What the Mahabharatha explains to the world is that conflicts are rarely between good and evil. They are always between two sides who wholeheartedly believe that they are on the right side. What the Mahabharatha has managed to spin off as a result is the endless number of interpretations of the various events in the story.

Anand presents the case of Duryodhana, his main character, and goes on to make him the 'hero'. As one cannot become the hero without there being a villain, the Pandavas and their supporters bear the brunt of being casteist. Book 2 and so on could present their side too, though I find it improbable that it is going to happen through the eyes of Duryodhana. The primary antagonist of the Mahabharatha is the hero who believes in righteousness, dislikes discrimination and fights for equality with whatever power he gains. To make him relate-able, the author has made him one of us, reacting to events rather than causing any of them. For example, Bhishma sends the Pandavas to Vanavrata here, not Duryodhana. Shakuni controls Purochana's building of the House of Lac here with no involvement of any Kauravas, because that would make them look bad.

I see how these are necessary deviations if the character needs to be portrayed as a hero, but did he have to be such a complete hero? I guess not. Readers can still relate to & root for someone less than a faultless hero. Only Karna has deserved that status across all interpretations of the epic, I think.

Anand has managed to win hearts with this interpretation, if the reviews I see are anything to go by. I believe he's done a fantastic job with this book overall, and he's managed to make Ajaya a better hero than Arjuna without deviating much from the original storyline, which is the major achievement for me.

And he's done this without pissing anyone off (surprising, given the portrayal of Krishna). That's quite something too.

Have you read it yet? I'm off to rate this on Goodreads now.


22 September 2014

Reviving #3


It's been a very long time since I wrote anything here. So yea, Hi. How have you been?

Ever since I started working on the Immortal Game series, I stopped writing elsewhere - on football, music or anything else.

This is just an update-type-post, really.

I'm kinda done with the first book of the series now. Does it matter if I send it out to Publishers or not? I am personally not too happy with the output, so I might end up burying the book instead of getting shot down. I have sent a crude version out to a couple of them though.

Whatever, I am going to start writing normal stuff again. Here, that is.

Thinking of (re)starting with "#TheLaymanMusicReview", talking about AR Rahman's recent albums. Or maybe I will write about my experiences with quitting my last job, picking up my new one or the incredibly stress free hours I spent writing. Or maybe about the stress and the worries and the pizzas and the reducing account balance that dominated my non-writing hours.

If you want to figure out if you're a good writer, you should write a book. Articles and fun posts can only tell you so much about yourself.

Haven't told anyone yet, but I just started working on another (possibly) short story today - and no, it's not about either humour or madness. It's mostly a tribute of sorts to two of my favourite authors, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dame Agatha Christie. Will probably publish it here if it doesn't get much bigger than a short story.

I have started rambling about mobile games as well. I'll post on twitter when my first post gets published.

One pain point is that there is no money in any of this. #Sucks #SourceOfAllStress

In the short term, I'll probably listen to 'I' this week and talk about it here. Do you want to do this together? Let me know.

What do I do for work, you ask? That could be another post, but all you seven readers already know about it, don't you?

27 March 2014

Stop Acid Attacks.


This friend of mine, Ganapathy Premkumar is riding his bicycle down from Bombay to Bangalore to raise awareness about the everyday issues of acid attack survivors. He's also trying to raise some funds for the NGOs working for them.

How bad is an acid attack, really?

Till I was 20 or so (despite clearing chemistry papers at school), I used to think that acid just damages someone's skin. That's the part of a survivor that is visible to us. I thought that the aim of an acid attack is to damage a person's looks because that's all it affects. It was something spurned ex-es and rejected villains did in the movies.

In reality though, skin damage is the least of the person's problems. It marks them permanently and possibly destroys the self confidence in weaker individuals, yes, but there are worse consequences. Acid attacks bore through the skin and affect the internal systems (respiratory, visual, auditory, digestive etc) based on what part of the person the acid was thrown at. The acid doesn't vanish once it damages the skin. It eats right through the person based on the strength / quantity.

So many women have died after short and long battles to survive an attack. So many others are fighting for their lives everyday. Homes have been uprooted and lives have been destroyed - and why? Domestic violence and spurned love are still the top reasons men resort to an attack. Read extensive details about the current scenario in our country at StopAcidAttacks and Chhanv.

I'd like to believe that not all the kids and the youth who go to this place where they think an acid attack is necessary to prove a point are psychopaths. I think some of them don't realise that they're ending someone's life. Awareness of the consequences of their actions is so essential to stopping the madness out there but is sadly not getting the push it deserves - and this is not just among the illiterate masses.

Before going any further, check out what StopAcidAttacks has to say about what can improve the situation in India.

The best thing you could do is donate to the above NGOs, through the link or through their sites. I'm not exactly sure how riding a bicycle helps, but it has certainly given me (and his other friends) this push to write about it or talk about it - and for this, I thank Ganapathy.

The next best thing you could do is to spread the news of the FB page & the donation link among your friends. The absolutely terrible odds & demons that the survivors / fighters face in life on a daily basis are overwhelming. The least we could do is make everyone aware of all the consequences of such an attack.

I don't know about you but I can never be as strong as these survivors. True fighters. I salute them all.

18 February 2014

All Ye Who Live Alone


Well, it's been a while since I wrote anything on this blog and after reading James Altucher's 'Write for a living' blog post a few minutes back, I thought, well, I can start now.

This might resonate with you if you've lived alone - and might be of help if you're planning to. This is about the enemies I face and defeat (most of the time) on a near-daily basis.

Let me start with an easy villain.

Mr. MadCap Chaos:


He's an easy villain because I'm used to his ways.

Can you find Bill Gates' face in the above picture? This is what happens when I search for my wallet or a pen or anything else. It can drive you mad. He hides them, MC Chaos. There's no one else else who knows where they are either. I fight him using my Sherlock Holmes level deductions, retracing my steps when I came home the previous day and figuring out the possible locations for the wallet.

He can drive you mad if you're late for a meeting or so, but it's actually a fun game if you have enough time.

Mr. Donnie Dark:

This villain has no name, no form and there's no proof he exists. He scares the hell out of thousands of children every single night though. I'm calling him Mr. Dark because I named a villain so in a super hero series I wrote as a kid.


I used to make the mistake of braving a horror flick or watching ghost-based TV shows when living alone. I tell you now, it's not a great idea. I saw this one show based on Ghosts inside mirrors (Not the movie named Mirrors. That sucked). After that, I left the lights on for, I think, three days.

Mr. Dark is a dangerous enemy. He aims for your heart, striking fear into it. That's potentially fatal.

See the above picture. The real question there is "Who's there behind the streetlight"?

Ms. Dusty Stormborn:

In a guy's apartment, she should be a fairly common menace. First, let me tell you how to identify if she's targeting you.

Drop a book on the floor from a reasonable height. You're one of her targets if you see this.



It happens on that scale when God drops a book, but surely you get the point?

Dusty is a small villain, sure, but the effects she has on your respiratory system is slow - and she's like slow poison if you look at it that way. She creeps into your life slowly but surely and you don't realise it even after she completely takes over your house.

There's a very standard solution to counter her powers though. A group of mercenaries exist in every city who dedicate their lives to stopping her from achieving her world domination goals. They call themselves Housemaids, last I heard. Look them up, enlist their help and save yourself.

Why is this villain a 'she'? She's D.Stormborn, that's why.

The Life Giver:

Doesn't sound like a villain's name?

Remember the time you put some utensils in the sink and forgot about them for a few days? He creates infinite Spiderman level villains (green goblins) and tries to destroy your loyal fighters, the utensils.

This is probably how you found your sink when something reminded you about the forgotten utensils.


Yes. With time, he can even defeat giant freaks of nature like mountains.

The green life feeds on your loyal subjects and you hope to God that you didn't leave a wooden spatula in the mix (RIP). Getting rid of him will require you to work on developing self control, create systems like always washing utensils (and the sink) every day and being very careful about the type of utensils you use...because I tell you, this guy is dangerous.

When his minions enter your apartment, realise that you are no longer the only visible living being in the house and that the minions have it in their nature to spread.

-

On a more serious note, I guess  there are possibly real enemies I could write about - which isn't that fun. Like I get these calls on my land-line phone before or immediately after nightfall once every few days. No one speaks at the other end and cuts the call when I answer the phone, or someone asks for a random name. I get this feeling that some gang of thieves knows I live alone and checks if I'm not at home - so that they can break in without anyone shrieking. So yea, I've been patiently answering the wrong number calls, in line with Syrio Forel's dialogue in Game of Thrones - "Not today."

I'm paranoid beyond belief, no?