So this goes out to Samit Basu one of the finest writers of this generation. (Notice that I didn’t add Indian to the phrase)
I remember picking up the first part of Samit Basu’s Gameworld trilogy The Simoqin Prophecies at a book store which has now sadly been closed(It was one of those book cafes that open along with CCDs and Nirulas). The book was languishing amongst the other scifi/fantasy titles in a corner and surprisingly the book had received little marketing but nonetheless the book piqued my curiosity.
Reading the back cover I decided to give the book a shot. (Besides the title seemed really cool) Little did I know what was in store. The book turned out to be a gem, plain and simple, written with such playfulness, such wit that one struggles to comprehend how something like this even saw the light of day.
The trilogy can be read on many levels and enjoyed on each one of them. Kind of like Asterix and Obelix which have these goofy physical gags but also abound with references to the era and have amazingly subtle wordplay. The trilogy had all this and more. The great thing about the references was the fact that it didn’t matter if you really got them or not. The story, the characters are extremely sound and a delight in their own right.
The trilogy is a glorious mish mash of ideas which I had previously not seen. Full of delicious little inventions, drawing from mythologies, current affairs, superheroes, and what not. No one is spared, many ideas are stolen and made better.
There are references to Hermione along with Jonathan Livingston Seagull. There is the wondrous land of Bolvudis which is a running satire on Bollywood. There is a treatise on how heroes are made. The conversations between God and Sambo are a treat, all fantastic creations of an extremely inventive mind. The way the gods are treated in the series should be a lesson in itself. The names are a delight. Al-Ugobi is a desert, Chropulis is a character who is abducted by a rakshasi, There is a rabbit(Steel Bunz) who writes the tale of “There and back again” tales of a rabbit. There is this glorious reversal on the concept of the jinnie. Many conventions of the standard fantasy tales are played with and twisted beyond recognition.
Perhaps the best thing about the Gameworld trilogy is how effortlessly Samit Basu moves between genres. Think about how difficult this is. Usually books maintain the same tone throughout, or they end up sounding stupid. Samit is able to shift gears from light to dark easily. There are fight scenes that are dealt as fight scenes ought to be. Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree comes to mind as I write this. He said the the thing about Opeth is that they never sound silly when they make the transition from the harsh to the not so harsh. Despite all the movements, the transitions there is still a cohesiveness, a central thread to it all.
At a personal level, the gameworld trilogy was an introduction to the incredibly rich scifi and fantasy genre. This was perhaps the first series that I read after Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. I have read many more since but the gameworld trilogy remains untouched. It still cracks me up every time I read it and it is amongst the books that I can and have read an umpteen number of times. Samit Basu is coming out with two books in rapid succession. If they are half as good as Gameworld its going to be an awesome ride.