Friday, January 18, 2013

2012: Books

Read surprisingly few of those this year and did not keep up my implicit promise of reviewing all of them. Though few in number, they made up in the quality. It is hard to pick the best one from among the likes of Museum of InnocenceFlowers For AlgernonThe Long Earth and The Glass Bead Game.

The Museum of Innocence was a behemoth, taking me through vicissitudes of Kemal Bey, and has to be noted for the massive closure it brought me by its very last line. However, that does not make a book good, it just makes it worth while; the quality of the book was in its calmness.

Flowers for Algernon was a book which hit deep. The subject matter and the plot lies very close to my heart. However, before it became a novel, it was a short story and the slightly sketchy characters and slightly incomplete threads end up showing in the book. Also, though the perspective of Charlie Gordon accentuates the book's poignancy, it at times makes it difficult to enjoy the story as a whole.

The Long Earth was more a treatise on evolution, humanism, politics and life. However, it contained just enough surprises, emotions, and nuclear bombs to keep it from becoming a little drab like The Glass Bead Game. Joshua and Lobsang, an unlikely team, ended up becoming the one of the best partners I have ever encountered in fiction, reminding me of Rupert Birkin and Gerald Circh from D. H. Lawrence's classic Women in love. Another USP of this book was that it was co-written by Terry Pratchett and plays with the inchoate boundary between "hard" Sci-Fi and Fantasy. This is the book which game me the latest name of my laptop: EarthWestOne, and now I am eagerly awaiting the sequel: The Long War. I cannot wait to meet First Person Singular, Mark Trine, and the next iteration of Lobsang.

But, the book which stole the show for me was Seabiscuit: An American Legend. This book made my heart race and was far better than most works of fiction I have read when it came to suspense, character development, story, crescendo, feints, and climax. However, don't read the epilogue in the same siting as the rest of the book.

Karna: Part One

Another interesting and special book I read last year was Karna, the debut novel of my friend Kartik Kaipa. It is based on the great Indian epic: Mahabharata. The characters are the same, the events are the same, the story is the same, the setting is the same and even the super-natural elements are the same. What change is the narration and some relatively minor details. Contrary to the usual pious tone reserved for the religious epic, Kartik makes the story take a more down to earth, and at times blasphemous, mien. His narration is sharp, at times humorous, and honest to the point of making one's bones ache. There is a point where he even breaks character to say some words about equality between women and men and Indian culture.

The story is well researched, with enough accuracy to allow him to bend the details his way. The protagonist of the story, Karna, has seen his ascension and is about to set on his journey as this book ends. I am eagerly awaiting the next two books planned in the series.

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