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Showing posts from June, 2011

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell : The adventures of a Dutch Clerk in Feudal Japan

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is a brilliant and utterly fantastic book. It takes an unconventional setting and makes a genius novel out of it. Its the last decade of the 17th century. The Dutch seek to restore a floundering trade relationship with Japan a nation that gives access to a few foreigners. The Dutch have the port town Dejima near Nagasaki. The red haired idealistic Jacob De Zoet enters as a clerk hoping to find his fortune and then proceeds to fall in love of course.(I make it sound as if it cliched but it is anything but). Corruption is rampant and Jacob de Zoet questions his motives many times. Complications arise, a conspiracy is uncovered and an attack on Japan is taken care of with Jacob De Zoet having a prominent hand in the affairs.  The book is beautifully written. The characters are extremely well realized. David Mitchell says a lot but he conveys a lot more by not saying everything out aloud. Also the thousand autumns contains the single great

River of Gods by Ian McDonald : Science Fiction set in a future India, a magnificent piece of work

If ever there was such a thing as the definitive science fiction novel on India then River of Gods is it. The amount of research that Ian McDonald has done is incredible(either that or he has lived in India for quite a lot of time). He captures India with all its contradictions and uncertainties. A nation which is god fearing, steeped in traditions and rituals and at the same time at the forefront of knowledge. He also manages to write a damn good science fiction novel in the process. The story takes place in 2047, 100 years after India has obtained freedom from the British raj only its not India anymore. Its split up into 12 semi independent states. It hasn't rained in a while so there is a water crisis. The title itself refers to Ganga around which much of the action takes place. The story is written against this backdrop from the point of view of a number of characters who are all well realized. Of course the character arcs intersect by the end to bring the novel to

On trilogies and epics

Must we have these long fantasy sagas. Why does everything have to be a trilogy or a series. Doesn't a single novel have enough pages to tell al complete tale. Why the rudimentary forgettable details, why the epics. What has happened to the great self contained works of fantasy and science fiction. Books that you could read in a single sitting and were profound, thought provoking. Why do authors want to write the same character again and again. Please give me some stand alone tales that stand tall on their own. I don't want to read sagas, I don't want to wait for the next book of a series. I want to leave a novel satisfied that I have read something. I don't want the moronic cliffhanger endings. Isn't it possible to say your piece in a single novel. I get that trilogies are in but that doesn't mean everybody starts out writing one. More stand alone works of fantasy please.

The City & the City by China Mieville : Two cities with the most peculiar geography

A hard boiled detective novel is familiar territory. What usually happens is that there is a murder that takes place which seems to be of no consequence but turns out to be anything but. As the story pans out it so happens that there is a larger conspiracy happening and its up to the lone detective to solve the mystery. The City & the City is Mieville's take on the hard boiled detective novel. Is it good? you bet it is. It embraces all the trappings of the genre, enhances it and makes it something more. The premise is simple and yet complex when given a thought. There are two cities, both of which occupy much of the same physical space owing to strange quirk of history. The citizens of each city practice something called unseeing and unhearing to ignore the residents of the other city. The cities have their own arcane rules for passing through of course. A seemingly innocuous murder takes place which quickly becomes something more. Mieville tackles an extremely com