Daily Archives: November 9, 2011

Book Review: Reamde by Neal Stephenson

Title: Reamde
Author: Neal Stephenson
Publisher: William Morrow, Harper Collins
ISBN: 9780061977961
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 1056
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5/5

I had not read anything by Neal Stephenson before reading, “Reamde”. Hence this book managed to have that kind of effect on me. Neal Stephenson has done something marvellous in this book. He has managed to capture it all – explosiveness, madcap intensity, different threads, violence, family drama, Russian mob story, to a computer hacker plot, to terrorism – this book has it all and it is the sheer volume and size of it that makes it such a magnificent read.

Reamde’s size that runs into almost 1100 pages might put off readers, however don’t be intimidated by that. The story is based on the Forthrast Family – Richard Forthrast, an ex-small time drug runner, haunted by the Furious Muses (echoes of his previous girlfriends), now the owner of T’Rain, the world’s most successful online game; his younger brother Jacob “Jake” Forthrast, a born again Christian and Survivalist; his elder brother John Forthrast, Vietnam veteran with two high-tech artificial legs; his sister Patricia, killed by a bolt of lightning, and his adopted niece Zula Forthrast who walked to Sudan from Eritrea to escape a war.

Normal they might not be, but when Zula is kidnapped by the Russian Mafia after her boyfriend failed to deliver on a dodgy deal, they react as any family would and pull together to try and find a way to rescue her.

The Forthrast family isn’t your typical American family. Nowhere close to that and Neal Stephenson ensures that with every page. At the same time the unusual events that happen to them are contrasted with the more ordinary side of American life, including things like shopping at Wal-Mart, RVs, Starbucks, family reunions, Thanksgiving, gunshops etc.

The story is believable to some extent and the characters are beautifully developed. There is fast action, a superb plot, tongue-in-cheek humour and also so many stories that are within stories that I just don’t want to give away right now.

Stephenson is capable of writing great stuff and this I got to know only as I turned each page. Reamde is an excellent techno-thriller that is well worth your investment. It just means that you have to commit to it a lot given its size and twists in the tale.

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Book Review: Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos

Title: Falling Together
Author: Marisa de los Santos
Publisher: William Morrow, Harper Collins
ISBN: 9780061670879
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 368
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Falling Together is a story about three college friends – two young women and a man and refreshingly enough, it is not a love triangle. It is about Pen who feels that love triumphs in every situation, Will, in search of the third member of the trio and Cat who has left her husband and disappeared – their lives, quirks, their beliefs, their errors of judgment and the lives they led. Thrown into this is a college reunion which only adds to the further complexities of the plot.

The plot may seem thin and simple – however there is more to the story. Moreover Marisa de los Santos knows how to beautifully craft a sentence and keep the words sometimes to bare minimum. The friends have faced different issues and different skeletons also come out from the closet during the reunion and this is what keeps the story propelling. Marisa de los Santos as in her previous two novels manages to surface her characters’ thoughts and emotions to the hilt.

The book in itself is nothing new, in the sense the plot, what is new though is the style of writing as I have mentioned earlier. Each character had a lot of dimensions to it and that is what brings out the characterization in a better manner. The descriptions are detailed and the atmosphere only adds to the book.

Friendships in college mean a lot. They form you as a person and make the bonds stronger. Falling Together emphasizes on such relationships. Falling Together is a story that everyone can relate to as it is about friends and the lives that are common to all. I would not recommend the book because of the story; I would however recommend it for the way it is written.

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Book Review: Classic Saratchandra: Volume 1 by Saratchandra Chattopadhyay

Title: Classic Saratchandra: Volume 1
Author: Saratchandra Chattaopadhyay
Publisher: Penguin India
ISBN: 978-0143101253
Genre: Indian Fiction
Pages: 816
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

We all know of writers – writers who are not from the country we know more of. We eagerly wait for their books to publish, so we can savour them in the comfort of our homes and bedside reading lamps. However there are times when we tend to forget Indian Writers of the years gone by, who lived in different times and wrote excellently. The reason could be only that we did know of them in school as a part of the Hindi curriculum and therefore feel that they cannot be read otherwise.

Off late I have been discovering or rather re-discovering such writers and one of them is Saratchandra Chattopadhyay. Saratchandra wrote in times when India was under the British Rule. He did not write about the conditions in those times; however he did hold a mirror so to say to the society and its issues in a very subtle manner. For instance, Devdas is not just about a drunk and wasted lover. It goes beyond that. It speaks of feminism very early on through its two female protagonists – Paro and Chandramukhi. At the same time, the fictional value and element of the novel do not get ignored.

Penguin India has launched, “Classic Saratchandra – Volume 1” that features eight of his brilliant novels. From Biraj Bou to Swami, these novels explore a gamut of themes – from the relationship of a newlywed indifferent wife and her patient husband to a woman and her love for her husband despite misunderstandings that take place.

Saratchandra wrote his books with great sensitivity. When you read them you start noticing the underplayed emotional tones. His writing also sometimes was induced with a tinge of political awareness – for instance most of Srikanta is written with the angle of combining a family story with India’s then situation.

Saratchandra had an eye for detail and he used it to his advantage. The writing is in place and at times there is too much atmosphere, however that can be ignored. His works are definitely more than worth just one read. I would also like to mention that the translations by Malobika Chatterjee, Aruna Chakravarti, Sreejata Guha and Sunanda Krisnamurty is by far one of the excellent ones that I have read. At the end of it, I cannot wait for the second volume to be published.

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