A year after being recommended Ken Liu's Paper Menagerie, I finally get around to reading it. It leads to my discovery of an author whose works I know I am going to be obsessed with. Read on to find out what has switched me into obsession mode with this man and his work!
I started reading The Martian, and like Mark Watney on Mars, was stuck in the book till I could finish it. It has been a while since I picked up a book I could not put down, and even longer since I read a decent science fiction story.
When I was a young boy, I was gifted a hardbound book called “Space Stories for Boys.” This launched me into the word of classic science fiction. Over the next couple of decades, I have collected and read, from old book stalls, pavement shops, second-hand places mostly, more than my fair share of classic science fiction. During this time, I’ve come to have a certain taste in it – what appeals to me is a curious mix of kitsch and drama, set in improbable and dramatic surroundings.
Hrishikesh Diwan’s The Tale of the Dark Warrior launched on New Year’s Day and I wasted no time in reading it – not a difficult thing to do since it is a novella and was instantly available the moment it launched.
The novella tells the tale of several different people, where their lives intersect, and how certain actions of each of them affects the lives of the others. There is also a mysterious man who keeps turning up and asking very philosophical questions of these characters. The shifting focus of the narrative, as well as the barely-visible common skein running through it keep you in a bit of a dreamy state. The fog lifts towards the end, and as realization dawns on you, several things that you read earlier fall into place, and the story suddenly emerges from its wispy hiding place into full HDR glory. At that point, you feel satisfied with yourself for having had this experience. And that is the triumph of this work.
Brilliant storytelling, detailed universe, well-rounded characters, and a classic murder mystery reminiscent of the best in the business. Though the plot is not novel, it is the perfect potting shed for introducing the world of Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott, the troubled detective and his new temporary secretary whom he can hardly afford. A definite must-read, especially if you are a fan of old-school murder mysteries.
Michael Crichton’s latest novel, Pirate Latitudes, took up one marathon reading session this weekend. It was, to be cliched, unputdownable.
The blurb reads:
An irresistible adventure of swashbuckling pirates in the New World from one of the best-loved and bestselling authors of all time.
Jamaica, in 1655 a lone outpost of British power amid Spanish waters in the sun-baked Caribbean. Its capital, Port Roayl, a cutthroat town of taverns, grog shops, and bawdy houses – the last place imaginable fron which to launch an attack on a nearby Spanish stronghold. Yet that is exactly what renowned privateer Captain Charles Hunter plans to do, with the connivance of Charles II’s ruling governor, Sir James Almont.
The target is Matanceros, guarded by the bloodthirsty Cazalla, and considered impregnable with its gun emplacements and sheer cliffs. Hunter’s crew of buccaneers must battle not only the Spanish fleet but other deadly perils – raging hurricanes, canibal tribes, even sea monsters. But if his ragtag crew succeeds, they will make not onl
Sunday evening was spent rather delightfully, listening to Jeffrey Archer speak. He was at Landmark to promote his new book, a re-write of his top seller, Kane and Abel.
The man is a genius when it came to handling the crowd – he had them eating out of his hand within the first few minutes – he spoke about what a great place India is, and Sachin’s brilliant century in the previous day’s game. It was easy to see how he would have swayed his constituents who sent him to the House of commons.
Here are bits of what he spoke about, as I remember them. Any omissions / distortions are mine, and I absolutely refuse to stand by anything here under oath!
He began by reading out a really short short story that he said was perhaps the best example of short story writing.
Then he spoke about the new Kane and Abel and how it came about. Having sat down to read the original work 30 years after it was first published, he found himself making corrections here and there. These became bigger and bigger, and he found himself rewriting whole sections. Finally, at the end of about 500 hours of work over a 9-month period, the new version was ready. He’s written over 50,000 new words, and the new work is about 7,000 words shorter – which seems to suggest that about 57,000 words from the old version have been jettisoned.
I recall the first time I came across Vikas Swarup’s Q&A in the huge Landmark at Spencer Plaza in Chennai. That was in 2005, and I remember being fascinated by the blurb, though not enough to buy it right away. I made a mental note that I should read it sometime. It got added to the ridiculously long reading list in my head.
Some time ago, I heard about Slumdog Millionaire, and how it was a movie being made out of Q&A. And then, I read the rave reviews it had received, and how it was the next big movie. This brought the book to the top of my reading list, and into my shopping cart on Indiaplaza. That was when Angie lent me the copy she had, and I finished it a single, albeit interrupted, reading session.
It all started with a gift voucher from Crossword I got for something or the other. Deciding to take advantage of it, off we went to City Center, where, suitably fed and glowing, I went into the aforesaid bookshop (Vidya cleverly slipped into Max to look at clothes, well knowing my propensity to take an inordinately long time in bookshops!). So I started looking around, trying to decide what I would buy, and in the process discovered that Crossword (at least the one at City Center) is one of the most pathetic bookshops I have been to in any city.
When I was at school in Coimbatore, I was a member of what must have been one of the first really successful lending libraries in the town – Choose and Read. It used to be owned and run by a chap called Noorul Ameen, who used to smilingly tolerate the incredibly long time
Last Sunday found us on the pavements of Abids, accompanied by the adventurous Haritha, hunting for books among the hundreds of impromptou bookstalls that had sprung up everywhere. After about five hours, we found ourselves richer by forty books, for which we had paid a total of about four hundred rupees.