Book Reviews, reading

Science Fiction in India

I joined a readers group on Facebook last year. It’s a very active group that has a vast number of well-read and articulate readers. A recent post on this group lamenting the lack of good science fiction in India inspired this post today. Allow me to present the science fiction books I have read that have come out of India:

  1. Satyajit Ray’s Professor Shonku series
  2. Anil Menon’s The Beast with Nine Billion Feet
  3. Samit Basu’s Turbulence
  4. Vandana Singh’s books

There are a few literary journals too that publish SF with an Indian or Asian influence.

  1. Indian SF

Sadly this site has gone defunct but the quality of stories published was quite high and the archives are worth browsing through.

This is an international science fiction and fantasy magazine that often features stories with an Asian influence.

Papercuts by Desi Writers’ Lounge is not focused primarily on science fiction/fantasy

Published by the renowned Kitaab Publishers, and featuring a story by (ahem!) yours truly!

Science fiction and fantasy is picking up in India in a big way. Here are a couple of links I found interesting:

The unbelievable meteoric rise of Indian SFF

3 Indian works of Science Fiction

Have you read Indian science fiction? Please do recommend some of your favourite stories/books in that genre! �0

Book Reviews, Writing

Starting with Goodbye

If you write creative nonfiction, you must head over to Lisa Romeo’s corner of the web right now. I’m pleased to share that her memoir Starting with Goodbye was launched on 1st May! 

Lisa-Romeo-fuller-2015

Lisa works as an editor, teacher, and freelance book manuscript editor. Her work is listed in Best American Essays 2016, and she has been nominated for additional BAE and Pushcart Prize awards. She also serves as an editor for two literary journals.  

I enlisted her help with my creative nonfiction and I highly recommend it. If you ever feel stuck and need guidance, sign up for her services! 

You can order her book here, and watch a beautiful book trailer here!

 

Book Reviews

What I’m Reading

Every so often, I list out the books I’ve managed to eke out precious time to read. The time constraints imposed by a day job and a baby means I have less time to read than ever before, so my annual totals are nothing to write home about. I have dipped from an average of 3 books a week to perhaps 1 or 2 a month.

Despite that, however, I recently read and enjoyed five rather popular and well-reviewed novels.

 

The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang

I recently joined a readers group on Facebook that has fuelled my reading like nothing else has before! This one was recommended by one of the members there who had posted the link to it as it is available online. This is an amazing science-fiction novella, though the title might scare away potential readers who might mistakenly believe it is a software engineering textbook. The story revolves around “digients” – digital pets who are trained to grow and gain intelligence, and how their human owners strive to maintain them.

 

The Circle by Dave Eggers

Here’s a book that I wanted to read before watching the movie. I had read so much about it but finally I caved in and read it. A young girl called May joins a Google-type company, and while initially she’s lost at sea, she eventually gets sucked into its vortex. Reviews online have criticized it for adding nothing new to the conversation about tech companies like Google becoming an overarching monopoly, which I agree, but I enjoyed reading it nevertheless and totally recommend it.

 

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The TV show is making waves on Hulu but I haven’t started on it yet. This is another one that I wanted to read first before watching the show, and I’m glad I did. It’s dark, foreboding, but page-turning, more quiet and literary than a thrilling adventure. For some reason it brought to my mind Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, though they have nothing in common apart from both being dystopian novels. Read it at leisure, and wait for the drama to slowly unfold.

 

Carrie by Stephen King

I have to shamefully admit here that I have NEVER read a Stephen King book other than On Writing because he writes primarily horror! I am very squeamish and even violent or gory thrillers give me sleepless nights. But I caught the movie version of Carrie and generally knew the story, enough to know that it was well-within my tolerance limits. So this became the first Stephen King novel I have read. And I, of course, loved it. I am glad to have read it and will be seeking out more of the same, non-gory stuff that he’s written. This one is not gory (in my opinion, YMMY), and recommended for all who are on the fence like me about Stephen King.

 

 

Unbroken by Nadhika Nambi

I came across this on my Juggernaut app and simply started reading without any context or background, knowing only that it was YA. A few pages in, it dawned on me that the protagonist Akriti is in a wheelchair, which is probably what fuels her acerbic chain of thoughts.

I have to say – it was an engrossing read. The author writes sensitively from the POV of the teenager, who is suffering twice the regular teen angst thanks to her situation. My only gripe with this book is that the character of the brother is a bit of a Mary Sue – almost too good to be true, but nevertheless, this is a great read for young and old alike!

 

Note: All links above are Amazon affiliate links.

 

Have you read any good books lately?

Book Reviews, My Writing

Jane Austen in India!

I had blogged earlier about the inclusion of my essay ‘Jane Austen Lives in India’ in the anthology Cocktails with Miss Austen.

Here’s a tantalizing glimpse of the print books!Jane.jpg

The book is out in the world since November. It had a great launch day and even made it to number one in Amazon UK’s hot new releases in its category. Just above Philip Pullman at no. 2 and Umberto Eco at no. 3 – so we have some famous company!

Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 20.23.52

What’s more – we’ve even bagged our first 4-star review! I was thrilled to find it mentions my essay specifically, as well as two other brilliant ones!

These “conversations on the world’s most beloved author,” as the book’s subtitle has it, are charmingly informative: Pride and Prejudice serialized on TV in India and a rapt teenager and her mother both, in their own way, musing about the man the teenager — Gargi Mehra, one of the collection’s seventeen contributors — should marry. Another piece with a fine meditation on the subject of complicated lives by the Australian writer Imogen Armstrong Orr, who has learned from Jane Austen that “. . . the quietness of the lives lived in her pages highlights the passion of the women who live them.” When I tired of reminiscence and craved some straight lit crit I found it in several essays, my favorite being one combining the two, mingling criticism with anecdote. Elizabeth Davis’ “Jane on the Brain” is an occasionally hilarious account of the author leading a class of young American students around England as well as around their much loved Jane Austen.

The subject is so close to my heart that the essay was relatively easier to write. The words flowed when I was writing and all I had to do was edit it for clarity and structure in my subsequent drafts.

The book is a treat for Jane Austen fans, and it would make a great Christmas/ New Year gift! It is available for only $0.99 on the Kindle store right now. Do pop over and take a look! Please leave a review if you read the book and like it!

I’ll be sitting curled up with my own copy meanwhile!

ReadingBook

Book Reviews

The Big Birthday

Not mine, but Harry Potter and JK Rowling.

Twenty years ago, the story of a boy wizard and his adventures lit up our lives. Seven books totaling around four thousand pages gave us more than we needed for the rest of our lives to obsess over.

Only, I didn’t buy into this particular bestselling phenomena until the fourth book was out.

I had been aware of the hype building up around Harry Potter, which had reached a peak around book 4, but I contented myself with the knowledge that I never read much fantasy anyway, and even if I did I wouldn’t delve into childish tales of wizards and witches flying around on brooms like imbeciles casting spells on one another for lack of anything better to do.

Boy, was I wrong.

Around a year before the fifth book released, I spoke to my sister, a voracious reader just like me. She said, have you read Harry Potter?

I said, no, why would I?

She said, read it. It’s like John Grisham for children.

Are you serious?

Get it now!

But I was still not sure. And I was weary of shelling out money and more importantly purchasing books that would further add to the burdens on my already ever-groaning bookshelf. Fortunately, I had a neighbor who was also a fan – a teenage boy who had read the books to tattered bits. I loaned them from him. He was kind enough to loan them to me, albeit with a sigh. I just can’t wait for book five, he said.

I thought: What losers! What could be so suspenseful that you couldn’t wait a little for a silly book?

That evening I read the first book. It was fun! I couldn’t guess the villain, which disappointed me profoundly.

I read the second book. I didn’t like it too much at first. Too dark for me. But the suspense pulled me over to the third, which many ranked as the finest of the series. By the time I reached the fourth book I was madly hooked. I read well into the night and woke up with puffed eyes.

When I reached the end of The Goblet of Fire, I was mad! We had to wait months for the next book? Where was the justice in this world?

From then on I stood in queue for the books. I put off packing for my trip to Singapore because I was too busy shedding tears when (do I really need to put a spoiler alert here??) Snape kills Dumbledore in Book Six.

Book Seven sealed my love for this series.

I tried to analyze why it appealed to me when other fantasy fiction didn’t. The answers I find online don’t match with my experience. I believe I liked it and it goaded me to consume more fantasy fiction because it was easy relatable in terms of the magic world that was created. Up until then I had found it difficult to dive into the fantasy world, but this one was easier to visualize.

Whatever the reason, I’m glad I overcame the inertia and embraced this book with all my heart. JK Rowling made all our lives richer, and deserves all the accolades for it.

Are you a Harry Potter fan? Which is your favourite book of the series? Do share!

Book Reviews, My Writing, Uncategorized, Writing

The Legacy of Jane Austen, and a New Story Publication!

I’m happy to post that my story Perils in the Post has found a wonderful home in The Ilanot Review in their Letters-themed issue. The Ilanot Review is an excellent literary journal from Israel! Do hop over and take a look.

In other exciting news, 18th July this year marked the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death. How fitting that my essay on Jane Austen was accepted just days ago, for an anthology by Ben Bulben Books. The piece, which I drafted over a week, captures my love for this great author and her delightful work. I would love to share a link to the anthology when it comes out.

Though I’ve read all her books, my favourite works of Jane Austen are the usual culprits: Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility. My next favourite after these two would be Emma, followed by Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. I haven’t read Lady Susan yet but as it was her first novel she wrote, the general consensus is that it differs from her later work.

As a Jane-ite, I am not enamoured of all the variations on her work that have flooded the marketplace in the past few years. I’ve read only a few of them, but haven’t had the stomach to read any more. Here are a few that I’ve read: 

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

Pride and Prejudice strides into the mystery genre courtesy the late great P.D. James and what an entry it is! I loved this book and would wholeheartedly recommend it.

Austenland by Shannon Hale

This was quite successful but I didn’t enjoy it much. It spawned a movie version as well, and I tried watching it in an attempt to help reading the book, but that did not work either. It’s just one of those where my taste apparently doesn’t mesh with the general reading public. 

Prada & Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard

I read this years ago and though my memory of it is vague, I remember enjoying the read. She incorporates dialogues from the original text as well.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith, and others in a similar vein

Pure blasphemy in my humble opinion, but that’s just me. The book was quite popular and well-appreciated, though I am sure it literally left JA turning in her grave.

This is only a sampling and there are many more, but I don’t want to tarnish the image of the original in my mind by reading derivative works. Perhaps at a later stage, I might grow a taste for it, but not now.

What’s your favourite Jane Austen novel?

 

Book Reviews

The Other Jane

21st April this year marks the 200th birth anniversary of the author Charlotte Bronte. I have read only one of her novels, i.e. the infamous Jane Eyre, but that has made a lasting impression on me.

I first read the book as a teenager in school. I cannot remember if it was an abridged version, though it might have been, but I do recall noting several points that set it apart from a book like, say, Pride and Prejudice.

Jane Eyre is a plain heroine, indeed quite markedly so. This is different from the books of Jane Austen’s that tend more towards classic romance fiction where the main protagonists dazzle society at large with their looks. Elizabeth Bennett is not the prettiest girl in P&P, but she is “second only to her sister Jane”, who is known to be a beauty. Mr. Darcy is widely touted as one of the handsomest men, but Mr. Rochester is neither young nor known for his dashing good looks.

The other central point of difference is of course the life of the heroine. Jane Eyre is downtrodden and underprivileged to begin with, earns her living by the time she’s eighteen, and [SPOILERS FOLLOW] eventually lands an inheritance from a relative. Jane and Elizabeth Bennett aren’t piling on the riches, but they’re not living in abject poverty either. They manage to deck themselves out for ball after ball, where their primary motive is to find en eligible suitor. This does not apply to Elizabeth, of course, but for quite a few women in Jane Austen’s novels.

In my first reading and interpretation I found Jane Eyre a bit strange. I did not understand or appreciate its beauty, and I closely connected most with the protagonist’s years spent in her school. The whole angle about the woman in the attic, Mr. Rochester’s mad wife, puzzled me. I found it almost unreasonable and illogical that a man could conceal a lunatic in his house and not have anyone in polite society know or discover this fact. I could never understand how Mr. Rochester landed himself in such a tragic situation in the first place.

A second reading of Jane Eyre completed over recent months revealed its beauty and understanding of human nature to me. The prose in the book is dramatic, and it’s interesting how many times Jane is described as plain, leaving no doubt in the reader’s mind that the character in question is no beauty. But she is intelligent and fascinating, considering the strength of conviction she displays in her circumstances.

The first time I read Jane Eyre, the book had a preface that offered a brief biography of Charlotte Bronte and her sisters. I found it interesting that Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte published books under their assumed names Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. Only later when their books became popular did they come to be known by their true names and gender.

If you haven’t read Jane Eyre already, then I suggest you do so straight away. And once you have finished that, you can check out The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, one of my favourite books, that features a literary detective called Thursday Next who allegedly brings about the relatively happy ending of Jane Eyre!

Though I haven’t read Anne Bronte’s novel, I did read and love Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

Have you read any of the novels by the Bronte sisters? Which is your favourite?