Live Large or Die Trying

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Romantic Bouncers – 4 stars

Millions of Indian teenagers dream of putting on the jersey of Indian Cricket team but only the brightest of all gets the chance. Rabin is one the dreamers with a shining girlfriend, a few friends of the same feather and a father in Narcotics Control hell bent on him having a traditional and safe ‘naukri-wala’ life. But little do people know when drug and corruption slip in ever-day lives and dig their claws in the flesh of innocence. A story of a ambitious dreamer’s struggle to lurch out of the dark alleys of Kolkata and stepping in the limelight of playing for a cricket crazy nation.

Let me take a moment to talk about current status of Indian novels. A huge portion of Indian writings are now done by bored out IIT/IIM passouts or Bankers whose products can be simply put as “less than 200 hundred pages of funny/romantic things done by young and horny people whose lives suddenly take nice turns within last 30 pages”. It is a sad dark time for Indian novels where reading a third book feels repeat full of same old funny/romance cliche with sex thrown in to make it crispy. And then come authors like Ram Vignesh who not only breaks free of these ‘setups’ but also takes daring risky steps of writing books which digs deeper in to the psychology and dark corners of human mind.

Frankly, I don’t read romantic novels. For me, “Romantic Bouncers” was a cringe-worthy name but somehow the premise at the backcover promising an unique blend of Cricket and Narcotics felt appealing. Although the name sounds like a book of love and even though the book contains the love life of our hero, Romantic Bouncer is not a romantic book at all. It is dark, deep, realistic and sometimes raw. But the strongest is the narration – abrupt, discreet and complex with going back and forth. I am not saying that it’s never seen before but it felt incredible to hear an Indian voice finally taking things up a notch. Our protagonist Rabin feels like the-boy-across-the street from the start and we can all relate easily to his struggles. But even before I knew, I had completed the first half of the book and realized that the book had sunk me like a quicksand. And damn those pages about drug lords and streets of Kolkata! When we watch/read foreign TV shows or crime thrillers we all somehow feel that “those type of things are too much for our alleys”. Ram Vignesh has excelled at that part. His descriptions are neither over the top, nor lousy. And apart from being a little cinematic at some places, they are tight, hard and as real as our knuckles.

I will not get into the story much to avoid the risk of spoiling anything but one thing is for sure that Ram Vignesh is one author to keep an eye out for. I recommend this to any romance, fiction or crime fiction lovers and request to welcome this new wave of Indian writing.
P.S. A warm thanks to Mr Vignesh for providing a copy to review.

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Do you remember that thing?

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Who Goes There? (The Thing) – 3.5 stars

Remember that weird bloody gory sci-fi movie that we all have watched once? Yes ‘The Thing’! Curt Russell using firebreather allover! Who Goes There is the book based on which The Thing was made. 

An alien dead-body is found by some research works of a station at Antarctica. But little do they know that it’s not dead. It is a shape-shifter – human or animal doesn’t matter! There begins a bloody gore-some paranoia in the station.

The story is pure hunt or be hunted type with fantastic voids to be filled with readers’ imaginations. Sometimes the amount of blood and gore in a science fiction feels unnecessary but for this it doesn’t. All the killings and violently described situations are very very fitting in the novel. There can be two types of reception of this book depending on whether you have or haven’t seen the movie. If the movie is seen before reading the novel, it does feel a bit bland because the movie actually created much more visually enjoyable paranoia than the book (which is very rare in the history of cinematizations)! But if the book is picked up first then it feels like an immensely enjoyable novel that has stapled horror and science-fiction in spectacular manner. The only thing that stumbles is the narration; feels a little discontinuous or sudden sometimes.

A bloody (pun intended) well written scary sci-fi to be read again from to time!

The Best Variety

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The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Volume 2: Second Variety
4 stars

Recently I came up on a fact that many of renowned and beloved movies are actually based on stories/novels by the same person named Philip K Dick. So after visiting some thrift stores I got this wonderful 2nd Vol of Mr Dick’s Collected Short Stories. Needless to say he is as awesome as I had imagined him to be!

The book contains a few fantasy horror stories along with the mouthful of science-fiction. After going through some stories that I will remember for a long time I can clearly state somethings –

~ Mr Dick writes pure pure sci-fi wrapped around fantastic characterizations.
~ He induces bone chilling horror with heart stopping pauses.
~ Sometime there lies more in what he doesn’t say. He just gives such an empty space and let the horror fill the space on its own through realization. (This is my favorite!)
~ Fantasy is not his original element; Sci-fi it is!

The best of this volume for me are Second Variety, The Cosmic Poachers, The Impossible Planet, Breakfast at Twilight!

I am gonna read more Dick’s for sure because it feels like I have just opened a new Pandora’s box!

Who is 67?

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Shutter Island – 5 stars

When a delusional child murderer named Rachel Solando escapes from the home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane placed on Shutter Island, US Marshal Edward (Teddy) Daniels and his new partner Chuck Aule are sent to investigate. From a barefoot mentally disturbed woman pulling an impossible escape leaving cryptic codes to the doctors behaving in most nature – Teddy and Chuck become more and more sure about this case being a larger game for something else. With an ulterior motive to find his wife’s insane killer Andrew Laeddis who was transferred here 2 yrs ago, Teddy digs deeper. As a killer hurricane blows down on the island, Teddy begins to see that he may never get to leave Shutter Island because someone or something is trying to drive him insane!

Now that I have sat down to write a review, it feels impossible to do so because I still can’t comprehend that I have finished the book. Words from here, lines from there are still clicking and rattling in my mind. I finished this in 2 days like my life was depending on it! After a long time I felt a rush like this. Dennis Lehane has created a masterpiece to remember.

What drives a mystery novel towards the final pages? Who, why and how – these three questions. Sometimes one of them gets answered before the others. But Shutter Island answers none of these till the finish. Instead it creates such a tight web of more and more and more questions that the reader is driven almost mad with curiosity! Have you ever felt like running faster and faster to find a way out because the walls are closing in from every side? I hadn’t till I read this. The pressure, the delusion, the rush and the confusion – all made me run for last pages and when I reached there, it all blew in my face. I just sat there trying to gather it all in. I couldn’t settle down till I had gone back and forth three times and all the pieces of the puzzle were set into there places firmly and tightly.

A must read for serious mystery lovers. Prepare yourself for one of the most epic twist of all time!

BO’RED’OM Rising!

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Red Rising – 3 stars

An alien society on Mars ruled by the color of people. High society, slaves, total power-pollution. And there is our hero who has finally had it with it and leading a revolution secretly.

So, what just happened here? This book is supposed to be a new age prodigy of young adult science fiction. But somehow it didn’t work. Where was the spark? Never felt any urge to flip the pages. I am totally confused!

Our hero Darrow is soooo cold (not cool; Cold)! His emotions are deadpan and blunt. He says he is crying – I never feel the pain. He is frustrated – I am with him. The story is better than the characters and as a debut novel this is really applauding. But the racialism, the master-slave set, the rise of a hero with personal vengeance – feel somehow very familiar at times. Sometimes it is too cinematic, sometimes it is too blunt. Maybe I feel this much letdown because I expected too much seeing the 4.19/5 stars from more than 35k ratings on this in Goodreads.

On a whole it was a good read. But was not overwhelming.

All the myths are fake, my life isn’t flashing before my eyes!

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The Mark – 3.5 stars

Buying a book just because it is cheap due to some offer was a huge gamble for me but the good news is I won!
It was a huge surprise when the book turned out to be a smooth crime thriller as promised in its catchy premise – “Right as I’m about to die, I realize all the myths are fake. There’s no white light at the end of a tunnel. My life isn’t flashing before my eyes”!

Henry Parker is a newbie journalist waiting for a snoop to catch. One night he tries to help a man form being physically abused and -poof- he becomes a snoop with the Police and killers on his heels with zero idea of what is happening.

Mentioning anything more than that might spoil parts of the story. SO all I am gonna squeak is that this is no historical or mythical or sci-fi or fantasy thriller. It is a plain hardcore good guys-bad guys thriller set in urban city with us, the people. Without any all-knowing or action-crazy hero Jason Pinter has written a gripping book.

You may not be toppled down or marked forever(pun intended) with The Mark but it is a sweet thriller which will keep you guessing!

Robinson Crusoe on Mars

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The Martian – 3.5 stars

While leaving the planet on an emergency, Mark Watney is accidentally left on the surface of Mars by his crew of Ares and he is assumed to be dead. With no way of contacting anyone and with limited supply of food and shelter, he has to survive.

“Intelligence is based on how efficient a species became at doing the things they need to survive.”
― Charles Darwin

The Martian is a marvelous diary of a survivor. I am a student of Physics and it gave me more than enough pleasure to read a space-science-fiction novel with ‘Science’ that may really come true in a few upcoming years. I loved the book like a dear brother who speaks up ambitions which makes you proud. But it also contains a lot of things which almost made me throw it from rooftop. I felt like a bi-polar person loving and hating it so much the same time. To make it simpler, let me put it in pros and cons.

Pros:
There are two types of sci-fi, one which jumps a long way and shows us a new kind of advanced world and another which just goes out for a little walk out of the boundary of actual possible world of today’s science. The Martian is of the second kind. It speaks of a very smooth fictional Mars expedition without ever going over the top. One after another disasters and problems are thrown at our hero and he tires overcomes those with the best weapon a man has – intelligence. The book balances thrill and tension very well to keep up the readers on their toes. Descriptions of the farming, rovers, hub, space station and NASA are so realistic that it makes one wonder if this is a fiction or fictionalized form of real events. Andy Weir has studied like a mad man for writing this book.
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Cons:
It really hurts me to write bad about this book. Biggest problem of the book is it’s language. Our hero is left alone in a stranded planet and he makes fart jokes, boob jokes and puns in his log all the time. While doing some of the most complicated chemical and mathematical calculations he jokes around like a 12 year old. It just blunts the importance of critical situations if a hero constantly says “Booyah, Yeeay etc” throughout the whole book. And most surprising of all – there is literally zero emotional effect on him. He is alone on Mars with almost no chance of survival and he is cool; so cool as if he has gone trekking alone. A man stays frigging alone on a whole frigging planet for more than a year and he never even has one emotional breakdown. What the hell??? This is Andy Weir’s debut novel and it badly shows. Most of the conversations among NASA’s topmost scientists feel tacky, cinematic and forceful to make it funny. It might make some readers smile with all the casual language, jokes and funny situations but let it settle and you will see how unnatural it feels.

It is painful to love a book so much while hating the author at the same time. Even with all the problems this is one of the most entertaining science fiction I’ve ever read. If only it had chosen a less funny and more sentimental approach, it could have been a masterpiece in all aspect. But at the end of the day, who won? Science won! Yeah!
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Human behaviour is history’s broken record

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The Cause – 4 stars

In a near distant future, America along with the whole world is at the edge of financial and economic disaster. The rich has got rich while the poor has got poorer. With NSA watching over all, the government has made individual freedom an enemy to be chocked ruthlessly. In a black-ops training camp Isse Corvus, a hacker learns something that contains the fate of U.S. He discovers the leaders are revolutionaries seeking to return the U.S. back to its Constitutional roots. With a gun pointed on his head Corvus learns that if he doesn’t join ‘The Cause’ and help them hack the NSA’s servers, it could mean his life. If he joins, he becomes part of a conspiracy to overthrow America’s financial oligarchy.

First thing first, this is a bomb blasting début! It sticks to a reader’s hands and keeps him/her curious all the way. The best thing about the book for me is the atmosphere. The book balances itself at a very unique position of having all the tension of dystopia novel but without being one. It controls the chill and tension-in-the-air just as the premise promises. There are many surprisingly well written characters with Isse Corvus becoming just the hero everyone wants to be. The book may feel a tiny bit slow at the beginning but once the ground is set, it gives one hell of a ride to the last page. Government Conspiracy has always been a hot topic for thrillers but Mr Vincent has made a new approach throwing sci-fi in the pile because sometimes conspiracy thriller without an all-knowing-hero feels really good to read.

I must mention another thing – analogy. Personally I am not a literature person and I avoid symbolic analogies. So I was really surprised when I liked symbolic quotes and writing placed in a sci-fi thriller! The lines are really deep and compliments the writing greatly.

The only thing that bothered me was the cinematic approach at some places. Quite a few dialogues and situations felt pushy and stiff like movies. I am not saying that is bad because some may like it, some may don’t. 

I would recommend this to anyone who loves action packed thrillers with little bits of science fiction mixed in excellent manner and a warm thanks to Roderick Vincent for providing me a copy to review!

Cold is the new hot!

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Colder Vol 1 – 4 stars

Do you really think you are sane? But what if you just need a tiny little push or a tipsy bit of wrong in your righteous mind to prove that wrong!?! Do you think madness can’t be spread? What if madness is actually a feast for a soul eater? What if everyone mad are just trapped in another world but can not get back? Now tell me what would you do when these happen to you!!

Incredible! The story is so gripping that you can feel it slowly crawling up your spine! A nurse (Reece) keeps a mental patient (Decan) at her house under observation after the mad-house went on fire. Decan is growing colder and colder with each passing day for unknown reasons! But now it is her turn to feel the world going crazy. Now between the soul-eater (read Emo-Joker) and Reece, only Decan can save her by taking a stand against his creator of madness!!

Do you really need more push to read this book?! See the cover! Just that gorgeously horrifying cover is enough to get you interested. Paul Toban’s story is superb and Juan Ferreyra’s art is out of the world. Juan Ferreyra has drawn the mad world like nothing else! It is a creepy yet mesmerising tale of horror and fantasy mixed with scariest nightmares!!

Return of the silent horrors

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Parasyte Vol 1 – 3 stars

What if an alien invasion starts with parasites taking over human body? (Wait what? Is this 1940s again?) Little worm/snake like parasites take over human heads and start to control them. Then they eat others and become shape shifters (yes it is that much cliché). But a boy accidentally gets it in his right hand instead of his head and as the parasite fails to take control of his brain, they settle to a contract to co-exist. Now they must fight other cannibal parasites to survive together.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked the simplicity, a few likeable characters and clean cut look of drawing. But the problem is nothing really grabbed the attention much and felt bland. At the peak most of the suspenseful situations, I felt Meh! I would have given 4 stars but the story is a too much systematic and predictable. I have heard that there in a kick-ass anime now based on this but this source manga material surely is weak.