Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The Bankster by Ravi Subramanian - Book Review



Publisher's write-up:

'Bankers build their careers on trust, or so everyone thinks, till a series of murders threaten to destroy the reputation that the Greater Boston Global Bank (GB2) has built over the years. Who is behind these killings, and what is their motive? Is the banker at GB2 fast turning into a bankster? Or was he always one?

When Karan Panjabi, press reporter and ex-banker, digs deeper, he realizes that he has stumbled upon a global conspiracy with far-reaching ramifications – a secret that could not only destroy the bank, but also cast a shadow on the entire nation.
With only thirty-six hours at his disposal, he must fight the clock and trust no one if he is to stay alive and trust no one if he is to stay alive and uncover the truth.

Spinning an intricate web of lies, deceit and treachery, best selling author Ravi Subramanian, a master storyteller of financial crime and winner of 2008 Golden Quill Readers' Choice Award, returns with his most gripping thriller yet.'

The story begins in Angola where a covert CIA agent supplies arms to rebels, with the help of DR Congo and is paid in diamonds, in exchange. The author then, takes us immediately to Kerala in southern India, where an elderly man, who lost his son and daughter-in-law during the Chernobyl disaster, is leading a protest against the Trikakulam Nuclear Power Project (based on the ongoing Koodankulam protest). The author then takes us to Mumbai, which could be said as the main plot, where a foreign bank in India, Greater Boston Global Bank (GB2), many of whose officials are losing their lives – murdered, in fact. Why these officials, that too from these particular bank? Karan Panjabi, a journalist and a former employee of GB2, investigates the case, leading him to drastic findings, which could absolutely destroy the bank's reputation.

I judged a book by the summary written in the back of the book by the publisher, considering the global nature of this book, with the author taking the reader to Angola, Kerala, Mumbai, Vienna and Tel-Aviv; and also dealing with a white-collar crime, I decided that I'm certainly going to like this book. Fortunately, I wasn't disappointed. It was a fast moving story – a story with three parallel plots and I liked the way in which the author brought out how actually works, supposed to serve the customers, but instead, how the employees are desperate only to achieve their targets for personal gains and in order to achieve such targets, how the coerce the customers into their devious schemes. The book would be best enjoyed if read in 2012 or 13 mainly because you could easily relate to the events happening around you. The author also maintained the suspense till the very end with twists and several red-herring characters (could have been better if 'solve before the detective' had been possible, in my opinion, even if you happen to guess things right, you can only thank your instinct). As a light note, I also loved the chapter where he imitated Arnab Goswami and his Newshour Debate.

But coming to the other side of it, I didn't like the overuse of Hindi in conversation. Words like chai being tea are known to most Indians but there were whole sentences were in transliterated Hindi; which isn't a problem for someone who knows the language but would certainly be a problem for the huge non-Hindi speaking population who read English novels. Perhaps the author justifies it as recreating the exact Mumbai atmosphere but that is something that could have certainly been avoided. Another thing about this book is the poor character building and also, there is no character to whom a reader can attach herself / himself to while reading the book; although we know that Karan is the protagonist (if you've read the publisher's write-up), still, at the outset, it seemed as though the Retail head of GB2, Vikram was going to be the main character and then the attention shifted to Nikhil, the cluster head, and then, Anand, the manager of the branch in Bandra, Mumbai and then it seemed like a battle between the two relationship managers of the Bandra branch, Harshita and Zinaida and after that Raymond, a manager of the compliance department of the bank gained prominence and finally, only around the 200th page (in a novel of 358 pages), Karan was actually involved in a conversation.

It certainly would be a page-turner for those love to read any form of thrillers. My important benchmarks for being a good thriller, the plot, the pace and a fitting end, were all met in this book which allows me to award this book a seven on ten.

Rating – 7/10

Have a nice day,
Andy

Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Bridge – Season 1 by Björn Stein – Review



Product description (Amazon UK):

'The body of a woman is found in the middle of the Øresund Bridge. Half of it belongs to a Swedish politician, the other half to a Danish prostitute. Trapped in the middle of the bridge connecting Sweden and Denmark, a bi-national investigatory team is put together to solve the crime. Laid-back Danish family man, Martin, and Swedish single woman, Saga, have to work together to stop the horrific staged murders before the terrorist wins over public opinion with his anti-corruption agenda.'

The Bridge (Danish – Broen, Swedish – Bron) is a Danish / Swedish TV series written by Björn Stein and created by Hans Rosenfeldt. Similar to my previous review of Forbrydelsen – Season 1, I shall review it as a story, and not as a drama, since I haven't the faintest idea on how to judge acting or screenplay.

I had been reading a lot about the combined metropolitan area of Copenhagen-Malmö and that too, integrating so rapidly ever since the construction of the Øresund Bridge. So, while reading about them, I stumbled upon this TV series while reading about Copenhagen-Malmö and I found the concept to be rather different and really interesting – and I couldn't avoid my temptation, despite my usual aversion towards stories narrated through a visual medium.

The power supply is to the Øresundbron is cut off, for a very brief period and within that span of time, a body of a woman is found, exactly in the Denmark – Sweden border. The member of the Malmö CID, Saga Norén (Sofia Helin) takes the lead, initially because the woman is Swedish but it is found out that it is the body of two different women, with the top half belonging to a Swede and the bottom half, a Dane. This brings Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia) into the investigation, a member of the Copenhagen police and a Swedish-Danish collaboration begins, in order to solve the case.



It was interesting, and had an altogether different kind of mass murderer who maintains contact with a journalist, using him as a medium to communicate his message and eventually got himself named the 'Truth Terrorist'. I found this similar to Ian Rankin's crime novels, where social issues / current state of the society are brought out through a crime novel (I also found a lot of similarities between this story and Rankin's first Rebus novel Knots & Crosses which is something I shall be writing about, soon). Moreover, the Martin – Saga combination was really interesting, two totally different characters; Martin is married whereas Saga is single; Martin understands emotions whereas Saga shows no sort of emotions, and occasionally ends up saying something comical and also, Saga is too strict about rules and procedures whereas Martin doesn't mind a breach so long is it benefits the police. Like in the case of any GOOD crime story, there were a lot of twists and turns, keeping things going for 10 hours and also one can expect a lot of red-herrings. Some say that the impact of the murder in the family of the deceased wasn't touched at all in this series but that is something that I appreciate, unlike the case of Forbrydelsen Season 1 where the scenes involving the Birk Larsens began to get too boring beyond a point. What was really disappointing was the way the character of Stefan Lindberg, the social worker based in Malmö was ignored subsequently and if the writers were going to do that, there was no need to emphasise on him so much, in the beginning.

There is a second season scheduled but I really wonder how they're going to do it, considering the title, the scope seems too narrow and if Saga and Martin are to collaborate again, it could only be possible in case the case of an old wine in a new bottle scenario but it'd be interesting to see how the writers manage it. I also learnt a lot more about Scandinavia from Broen than I could from Forbrydelsen or Borgen.

Considering the investigations, the way in which they were carried out, the story, and of course, what I believe to be the most important aspect in any crime story, that is the end, which was more than satisfactory and considering all this, I'd award this a rating of seven.

Rating – 7 / 10

Have a nice day,
Andy

Saturday, 20 October 2012

A Well Deserved Award



I know that this is a delayed reaction of mine but after reading a lot of negative responses from several people, including the former Polish president Lech Walesa, who had won the prize in 1983 and after such responses, I couldn't refrain myself from not expressing an opinion on this decision. In fact I felt that Lech Walesa's whole argument of people in the EU getting paid to do the job to be meaningless – that is the case with most Nobel Peace Prize laureates. Some might dismiss this article as 'an article from an ill informed young and naïve foreigner' and for all you know, you may be right in doing so.

I was aghast, back in 2009 when the Norwegian committee decided to award the prestigious prize to the US President Barack Obama, only because he was the president of the United States, who had been in office only for ten months, back then and had hardly achieved anything and the only thing he had done till then was that he made a lot of empty promises. At that juncture, it made me wonder about the other potential individuals / organisations who could have been given the prize and there was one very obvious candidate – European Union, an organisation who have been promoting peace in Europe for several decades, unlike Obama's ten month tenure.

I shall not discuss too much of EU's history but today, after six decades of tireless effort, Europe is largely united with the exception of some Eastern European and non-Baltic former soviet nations. EU is almost like a federal country, with 27 states (28 in another nine months with Croatia joining the union). It has most features of a sovereign state such as a common currency(in 17 countries),
visa free access, a broad legal framework with minor differences in individual member states (similar to the United States), even acts as an observer for several similar regional unions and also many other aspects but for a common military.

Europe could've been the epicentre of another world war yet again owing to its proximity to the Warsaw Pact countries but since the fall of the iron curtain, the former communist nations were welcomed with open arms and today, countries like Poland, Estonia among several others to the east of the iron curtain are an integral part of the European Union.

There are several such regional / continental organisations and to take an example regarding such a union, I'd take SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation), which has eight member states, with a significantly higher combined territory than that of European Union. However, SAARC, or for that matter, any other organisations haven't achieved even close to what EU has achieved and going back to the SAARC example, it is probably the most insignificant union – all countries have different currencies and it is nearly unimaginable for a national of one member state to acquire a visa of another member state, leave alone free access. This is sadly the case with nearly every other supposed regional union as well.

So, to the question, whether European Union has promoted peace and democracy, the answer is obviously yes. When the Union was formed, it was less than a decade since France and Germany had been on different sides during the WW 2 but today, it is nearly unimaginable to even think about the possibility of the two nations waging a war against each other. The fact that the pre-requisite to join the Union is to fulfil the conditions of Copenhagen criteria would imply that there are certain codes in the country which uphold the values such as democracy and freedom – and many countries have done that in order to reap the benefits of being a part of the Union – a direct indication that EU has promoted peace. But for that, the Schengen agreement along with several other treaties and agreements has ensured free movement of labour, resources and capital within the Union. But for that, there are obviously several other aspects which the EU has achieved and it may not be appropriate to state them all in this article; moreover, these are the two most obvious things visible to an outsider like myself.

This decision by the Nobel committee has attracted criticism mainly because of the timing of the award – at a time when Greece, Spain and some more countries are facing an economic turmoil but what people must keep in mind before making such remarks is that EU hasn't received a prize for economics, it was for peace and it is evident that they've achieved peace, over these six decades. However, to live up to its expectations on receiving this award, there must be an end to this crisis- after all, no economic crisis lasts forever; even the Great Depression was overcome, and incidentally, one of the worst-hit nations (Germany) of that depression is today a member of the Union. This is certainly a challenge for EU which is bound to be met.

In future, I'd like to see the EU becoming a much larger union and perhaps, this may even sound Utopian, but I'd like to see the Union amassing the entire Council of Europe under one banner. It'd certainly take time and effort but it is worth doing so. I've always been an admirer of Europeans and their culture – for they've been the pioneers of most revolutionary ideas and EU is another one such idea, which has set an example for the world.

I'd conclude with the words of the Belgian Prime Minister Elio di Rupo - 'this choice shows that the European project continues to inspire the world today. The European Union was originally the dream of people and politicians in search of peace and prosperity for all citizens. It has become a strong symbol of cooperation and progress. Europe, a continent that was torn by terrible wars, thanks to the European Union is an example for the world of peaceful dialogue and conflict prevention.'

Have a nice day,
Andy

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach - Book Review



Publisher's write-up:

'For most seagulls, life consists simply of eating and surviving. Flying is just a means of finding food. However, Jonathan Livingston Seagull is no ordinary bird. For him, flying is life itself. Against the conventions of seagull society, he seeks to find a higher purpose and become the best at doing what he loves.

This is a fable about the importance of making the most of our lives, even if our goals run contrary to the norms of our flock, tribe or neighbourhood. Through the metaphor of flight, Jonathan's story shows us that, if we follow our dreams, we too can soar.'

I started reading this book for two main reasons: one – I'm badly lagging behind in the Goodreads reading challenge and this book being just 87 pages (of which, half of them are pictures), could help my chances of completing the target; two – the author, Richard Bach, is an American. I haven't reviewed a book written by an American author in this blog, so far. I would have definitely liked the first to be a much bigger and a far more mature novel but it is good to start this with something as simple as Jonathan Livingston Seagull: a story.

I did mention two reasons, but I'd also heard about this novel several times, as a highly inspirational story and you start looking at your life from a different perspective after reading this novel. Over my four years experience, I've learnt to have my expectations low for something that is frequently praised by others since more often than not, such works of fiction have always disappointed me. But, this was rather different and I like the way it started, Jonathan Livingston, a seagull trying to break free from the chains of command of the seagull flock and follow his passion. Unlike the other seagulls for whom flight was a mere tool acquiring food, Jonathan wanted to excel in flying for that was his passion.

But for the start, the story was simply bad, on all the other aspects. When I arrived at this conclusion, I wondered, at the outset whether I was the only one who was unable to appreciate this work but I was glad when I realised after reading some reviews at goodreads that most people who've read this book shared my opinion. When this was tagged as 'motivational', I expected how Jonathan would fight against the norms of the flock and in turn excel in flying overcoming the societal constraints. Instead, the author just went on describing how Jonathan flew at '190 miles per hour' which in no way was interesting and wasn't anywhere close to being inspirational.

Besides that, I'm shocked to find this book stacked in the shelf 'Literature' in various bookstores and libraries whereas I'd say that this is nothing more than a standard fairy tale – the seagull is oppressed but two 'angels' take him to another world where all birds are like him, returns happily to earth and starts training like-minded seagulls. Moreover, I found it odd to give seagulls a surname – Livingston, Lynd, etcetera. I've nothing to say beyond this; a four paragraphs review is more than sufficient for a forty page novel.  

I didn't get any inspiration out of this story and I'm sure most people who read this book would feel the same. It is definitely one of the most overrated books I've read so far.

Rating – 2/10

Have a nice day,
Andy

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Love, Peace and Happiness: What more can you want by Rituraj Verma - Book Review



Publisher's write-up

'Stories surround us. Stories about people like us who make difficult and often complex choices that sometimes astound us. You must have come across some people in your own life who closely resemble the characters in these stories. Maybe you have gone through trying moments in your life too.

For instance, have you ever been bugged enough with your partner to want to leave? Have you ever had to choose between love and money? Have you even had to compete with your partner? Have you ever felt that your family weighs you down when it comes to choosing your partner?

At times like these, haven't you wished that things happened differently that you could change how they ended?

Now you will control how the stories in this book end.

Each story centres on the life of an urban middle class character caught in a set of circumstances beyond his or her control. A Hindu girl living in with a Muslim boy is suddenly in the glare of global media in a reality TV show, a divorced cynical man faces the prospect of committing himself to a prostitute, a highly talented small town girl must choose between life and death. All must resolve the conflicts within their beliefs.

Read the way the stories end in the book, but if you don't agree with the ending, visit the website for alternate endings.

If you don't like the way the stories end there either, write your own, and if your ending is selected, see it in the next print run with your name in the acknowledgements.

Hoping to change the word, one story at a time...'

'Love, Peace and Happiness: What more can you want?' is a collection of short stories written by Rituraj Verma. All these short stories are centred around people who are seeking the three aforesaid aspects of life, that is, love, peace and happiness and are having to encounter a set of problems during the course of the journey.

This book has certainly introduced a very new concept; it is easy to ruin any good story with an inappropriate ending. Hence, the author gives you two choices here – if you aren't satisfied with the ending in the book, you can go to his website and read the alternate endings. If you aren't satisfied with that either, you can submit your own, which would appear in the next edition, if approved.

The stories covered the various marriage related issues in its nine stories – a simple arranged marriage owing to parental pressure, inter-caste marriage, live-in relationships, love between people from different religions among others. I also liked the way how, although it is a collection of short stories, the stories aren't independent and most characters appear in more than one story and if not appear, at least mentioned (except for Sneha, a character from the first story, A high, like heaven, or so I believe).

The author also managed to successfully downplay the importance of money as being the panacea to all problems and how the above three things mentioned in the title could not be obtained by these.

From what I could interpret from these stories, the author is to be appreciated for being forward thinking, something that is desperately needed in a country where the majority of people are conservative fundamentalists.

This book would have been better had the characters had also been from different backgrounds – most of them were similar to that of the author himself, that is, they went to India's premier institute (for engineering), IIT and the only story where the setting was totally different was The practitioner of austerity, as story I thoroughly enjoyed. At times, I also felt that the ending was rather abrupt but regarding that, I've been given a choice to change it myself (which I shall not, since I'm a little conventional when it comes to books, retain it as it is).

The main problem with this review is the person who has reviewed the book and in this case, it is I. The author had sent a book review request via e-mail a month ago but I think the author would have decided otherwise had he known a little more about me. My answers to all the questions mentioned by the publisher is unfortunately, 'no'. I'm certainly not meant to be the book's target as I'm still a teenager and I was unable to relate myself to the characters and the issues and could probably understood better by people who are in the age group of 25 and above and because of this limitation of mine, I don't think I'd be able to give a proper rating to this book.

Given the option of reading the alternate endings or submitting your own, I don't think I'd do either of them, I'm willing to accept the book as it is, as aforementioned. However, I felt that all the Hanif – related stories, that is, The intimacy of space, The victim of many loves and The Facebook stalker could have been merged into a single story but I only have a control over the endings and this has its own pros and cons – you needn't have to turn the pages and there'd be a sort of continuity but at the same time, that would change the structure of the novel as such and short stories have their own merits too.

I'd end my review here and readers who came here expecting a very comprehensive review, I'd just have to apologise.

Have a nice day,
Andy

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Age of Hiblisk: A Story with a Soul by Sumukh Naik – Book Review



Publisher's write-up:

'”Age of Hiblisk: A Story with a Soul” is the journey of Prince William and Princess Sara, the protagonists , through the magical and spiritual worlds of Pantolis, Hiblisk, and Ikra. As their voyage unfolds, they realize the true motive behind the terror employed by the forces of Dushtt to claim supremacy over the lands of Pantolis and beyond. Every new revelation brings to light the methodical madness employed by the dark forces and secrets of Mother Nature, which have been safely guarded for ages by the various civilizations of the secret worlds.

Their journey also introduces them to the divine forces that monitor the functions of the world and gives them access to legendary, mystical weapons and advanced spiritual knowledge which illuminates the flow of their understanding actions towards various aspects of life. They use the knowledge gained, to try and bring peace to their war ravaged lands and fight the ever growing might and influence of the mysterious dark forces that haunt their kingdoms.

Will the light of all that is divine, fighting under the banner of Prince William and Princess Sara, flicker away into oblivion against the might of the dark forces under Dushtt, or will they survive? … Only time in her womb holds the answer, potent enough to change the outlook of the very world we live in.'

Age of Hiblish: A Story with a Soul is a novel written by the Sumukh Naik, a HR professional turned author. This is his first novel although it might come as a surprise to some who have read the book without knowing that as the book hardly showed any characteristics similar to that of one written by a callow author.

To say something about this book in a few words is, it is nearly a standard fantasy novel with a good mix of adventure and philosophy, a prince and princess fighting against an evil plot threatening the very existence of their world, well written along with nicely constructed dialogues.

The story revolves around three worlds; Pantolis, Hiblisk and Ikra with Pantolis being the land inhabited by normal humans but for a few shamans and members of the order who ensure the smooth functioning of Pantolis whereas Hiblisk is a world of diverse magical creatures with unknown secrets and several unexplored lands and Ikra is an illusionary world.

The story begins in the world of Pantolis where in the border of the two quarrelling kingdoms of Jaguar and Ivory, weird incidents are taking place, trees turning black, a plague spreading and houses along with the people in it vanishing without a trace. The matter is brought to the prince of Jaguar, William who decides to help the village but in turn, gets trapped by the forces of Ivory while evacuating the villagers and gets forced into an unconditional surrender.

It was found out by the Eleventh Master, the chief of the Order that the person who was helping the Kingdom of Ivory was in fact, Dushtt, the son of his close friend Ratraa, the lord of the underworld. The Eleventh Master helps the prince escape the dungeons of Ivory along with his subjects and also, Princess Sara, the princess of the Kingdom of Ivory, a member of the Ivorian royalty against the conflict on Jaguar.

The Eleventh Master understands that William and Sara are two people with a pure heart and noble intentions and are people whom he can trust and blesses them with magical powers for their battle against the evil forces of Dushtt and sends them to the world of Hiblisk, in order to prepare them for the battle which would decide the future of Pantolis.

A really good thing that I liked about the way in which the author presented the story was that it was to the point, with hardly any digressions from the main plot although there was a lot of scope for it, such as, although there was a prince and princess carrying on a task together, no pages or chapters were wasted on romance, something for which the author ought to be appreciated. Elaborating on my other point about the perfect mix, there was an adventure, like in the case of any fantasy novel but with it, philosophy was also involved, and on several occasions, the author sounded like a philosopher more than a story teller, very interesting philosophies on nature and the balance between good and evil, on women, the duties of good people, etcetera, indeed making it a story with a soul; although, personally I may not agree with some of them regarding the limits which science shouldn't cross but it would be best if I refrain from bringing in my personal beliefs into a review. The history of Pantolis and Hiblisk was also well narrated and to help the reader to keep track of the places, the publisher has so generously provided the maps of both Hiblisk and Pantolis and not to mention, the most important aspect of any book, the plot or the story too, was really good, although some might feel that the philosophical element to it was rather boring, I felt it was very much necessary (though I hardly felt that it was boring). A good plot when it is written well would be add more flavour to it and that is the case with this book, barring a few errors some of them caused due to oversight and some inexcusable phrases such as using few with the meaning of some and without using an article and also, very frequent usage of the phrase 'comprises of'. It was also rather different, rather than focussing on the conventional battles of 'goodies vs baddies', it approached the whole task in a different manner with a lot of twists and turns; certainly a combination which any reader would look forward to.

The author constantly reiterates that the good aspects and evil aspects go hand in hand although the degree may vary and that happens to be the case even in the real world, including his book. To start off, the names were weird, really weird. Probably, at first the author planned a global audience for the book initially and the initial names were all sounding European (Pantolis sounded Greek to me) and if not, not Indian, to say the least, with names such as William, Sara, Pedro, Philip, Aaron, etcetera but eventually, distances were being measured in yojanas (ancient Indian unit of measuring distance, approximately equal to 5-8 miles) and suddenly a 'Captain Sharma' popping in and after around the 50th page, most names appearing were Indian. However, there is nothing so negative about this as it doesn't affect the story in anyway and after all, what is in a name? The end too was rather abrupt but the way in which ended, I could only assume that the author is probably only planning a sequel. Another problem is, personally, I'm unable to categorise the novel, although I'm not sure whether it is because of my incompetence or by virtue of its nature since I'd certainly not say that it would appeal to all the young adults because of the excessive amount philosophy involved although it wouldn't be seen as a hindrance to anyone who is interested in it or looks forward to learning such things and at the same time, being a fantasy, I'm not sure how this could be termed as a fully adult novel but if I've to choose one, I'd go for the former.

I think I can close this review here with the comment that it was really an enjoyable experience reading it and with all eyes being on the Shiva Trilogy right now in India for fantasy, I feel this too, deserves some attention. Since I felt that this book was really more than just good, I'd gladly award a rating of eight.

Rating: 8/10

Have a nice day,
Andy

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Forbrydelsen (The Killing): Season 1 by Søren Sveistrup - Review



Product Description in Amazon (UK):

'Who Killed Nanna Birk Larsen? Head of investigations, Sarah Lund, is about to emigrate to Sweden, but as the tied-up body of a missing girl is found her plans are put on hold. In the course of 20 gripping episodes, each chronicling a day in the investigation, Copenhagen's secrets, corruption and power struggles emerge as the hunt for the killer intensifies and the truth becomes ever harder to find. This riveting Emmy-nominated thriller is one of the finest murder investigation series ever produced.'

This is the first TV series that I shall be reviewing and before I go on, I have to mention certain things. I'm no big fan of watching videos on computer and I seldom watch a series, in fact, Forbrydelsen is only the third I've watched, the other two being Yes Minister and Borgen and in fact, I stumbled upon Forbrydelsen when I read that Borgen was broadcast in the UK following the success of Forbrydelsen which was also done by the same producer (DR). So, my review would not be like the conventional sitcom reviews, since till date, I don't know what exactly is 'good acting'. I can pick out if an actor's performance is bad but I've never been able to pick out the good performer. Besides that, some talk good editing, screenplay, etcetera but I have never understood what the film critics exactly mean by that. So, this won't be any different from my other reviews, I shall not say a word about the technical aspects of a film, such as acting but treat this as any other crime story as though it were a book (I've felt that Forbrydelsen would have been much better had it been a book).

Coming to the review, Forbrydelsen, translates to 'The Crime' in Danish; though it is known as 'The Killing' in the English speaking world (I shall be referring to the series only as Forbrydelsen throughout my review since I don't see any reason to anglicise the title). It is a Danish TV series, with 20 episodes of one hour each, starring Sofie Gråbøl as Sarah Lund and Søren Malling as Jan Meyer and the story takes place in Copenhagen.




Sofie Gråbøl as Sarah Lund

Sarah Lund is a Detective Inspector and is about to move to Sweden with her boyfriend Bengt Rosling. However, on her last day in Denmark, Nanna Birk Larsen, a nineteen year old student is murdered. Her body was found inside the boot of a car which was taken out from a canal near the woods. Incidentally, the car belonged to Troels Hartmann, a local politician, running for the mayor post and elections were just three weeks away. The case thus had a severe impact on the election campaign and also on the Birk Larsen family. Sarah Lund's departure to Sweden is postponed by a week since her chief didn't want this case to be her replacement, Jan Meyer's first case and Lund, throughout the case, is assisted by Meyer.

The series had a perfect mix, politics and crime and the person did a good job in focussing the story from all the three angles, the police and sometimes, the personal life of Lund and Meyer, Troels Hartmann and his associates and also the Birk Larsen family. Also, the investigations were brilliant along with the twists and turns; the viewer can't really trust anyone and nearly every suspect has some reason to hide certain information from the police and especially after the 5th or 6th episode, I became a little desperate to know who did it and the interest remained till the end. Another good thing was that the attention was mostly only on the Nanna case and even the sub-plot, that is the upcoming election, is related to to the story as the case has a say on the outcome of the election, with Hartmann being one of the suspects. However, I felt that the scenes involving the Birk Larsen family were at times boring and I felt that the police too, harassed the people involved in the case including the family suffering from bereavement and occasionally they were also being a little stupid. Not just that, several deaths of the people related to the case, during the course of the story, was rather unnecessary and I think it was done just to prolong the series.

Ignoring those rather insignificant details, I was really disappointed with one aspect of it, the end. I've always said in my previous reviews that a crime novel, regardless of the quality of the investigations and the interest it generates, without a proper end, the whole thing is rather meaningless. So, that would apply to any other crime story as well and unfortunately, Forbrydelsen too falls a victim to that. It is the best crime story that I've witnessed so far, although, only till the 19th episode and the last one just took a lousy turn of events leaving not just a few, but too many questions unanswered leading to loose ends, which isn't something too positive, especially for a crime story.

Despite the disappointment, I shan't refuse the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed it (till the 19th episode as aforesaid). The reason why I don't watch too many sitcoms or films on my computer is because I've always felt that there are several better things to do in a computer and even when I've tried watching some films, I cut it short and to complete the story, I just read the Wikipedia plot summary. Despite this personal constraint, Forbrydelsen managed to defeat my personality, keeping me interested in the show, every minute of it and after the end of each episode, I was really desperate to know what happens in the next episode. In fact, I watched the last seven episodes almost at a stretch, approximately amounting to six and a half hours. The ending was unfortunate and I really have high hopes for the second season which I shall soon be watching.

So far, in no review of mine have I rated a crime novel without a fitting end above four but in consideration for Forbrydelsen having everything else except a proper end, I'd give it a five.

Rating: 5/10

Have a nice day,
Andy

Monday, 30 July 2012

The Art of War by Sun Tzu - Book Review ?




Publisher's write-up:



'Translated in the year 1910, this scholarly edition of Dr. Lionel Giles is considered to be the best translation of the work till date.



Originally written in the Chinese language by Sun Tzu in the 6th century BC, this is the most successful and the oldest Chinese military treatise in the world. The contents of the book are based on Sun Tzu's own experience in different campaigns. The essence of the book is that positioning in war strategy is crucial.



Apart from being essential for the military, the book is useful for all those who want to pursue success in life, and for all those who aim at leadership. The ultimate goal in one's life, as the book proclaims, should be to strive for success, always with the “enemy at the next door” alertness. In this contemporary battlefield of corporate competency, this book no doubt will have an edge over other such books.'


The Art of War is a guide for military generals written by an ancient Chinese general, Sun Tzu, nearly 2500 years ago and translated into English nearly a century ago by the British historian, Dr. Lionel Giles.



For starters, I'd say that Maple Press, the publishers, have written a very misleading write-up at the back of the book. While it said that they were from the author's 'own experience', I expected an autobiographical work with Sun Tzu narrating a battle which he led and what he learnt from that experience. Instead this was like an instruction manual, with numbered points in each chapter. Despite that, I thought that there tips given by this general would be useful for anyone but they were all too 'war specific' and some of his points were totally outdated, such as all his points regarding cities with fortified walls, whereas you hardly have such cities these days. Besides, I found some of his points to be contradictory, although not blatantly so, but in such a way that the two can never get along together such as, he talks about how a good general should treat his subordinates like his own sons and later he says how he must make all his subordinates fear when he is in their vicinity. My very strong opinion is that if you make your son fear you, then you aren't a good father and that applies to the general too. 



Initially in the book, I was extremely annoyed when the I read an extremely vague simile and the translator, in his commentary says that there is no exact explanation for that in English. Another frustrating thing about this was the high usage of allusions, a device that I detest. However, the translator agrees that the ancient Chinese version available right now may not exactly be what Sun Tzu might have left behind and several pages might have been added / deleted. However, to say something positive about this, I found some of his thoughts to be rather interesting / strange. Being someone who lived during the B.C years, I expected him to advocate war ethics and I was in for a shock when he talked about deception and the use of spies being a necessity, ending the book saying, 'an army without spies is like a man with ears or eyes.'.



The punctuation mark in the heading is not a typographical error and I used it only because I'm really not sure on whether what I've written is a review and that is up to you, the reader, to decide. Despite all these negative comments, I shall not dismiss the book completely as I strongly feel that I am not the correct person to judge this book. What he says might really be useful even for the present day generals and the people who are leading a team and being the carefree student that I'm, right now, I'm certainly not a member of the target group and I might probably find this work a little more meaningful later on in life. Regarding the rating, I've already mentioned that I'm not the right person to do so and hence I refuse. 



Have a nice day,

Andy

Sunday, 29 July 2012

The Secret of the Nagas by Amish Tripathi - Book Review




Author: Amish Tripathi
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 7/10

Publisher's write-up:

'The hunt is on. The sinister Naga warrior has killed his friend Brahaspati and now stalks his wife Sati. Shiva, the Tibetan immigrant who is the prophesied destroyer of evil, will not rest till he finds his demonic adversary. His vengeance and the path to evil will lead him to the door of the Nagas, the serpent people. Of that he is certain.

The evidence of the malevolent rise of evil is everywhere. A kingdom is dying as it is held to ransom for a miracle drug. A crown prince is murdered. The Vasudevs – Shiva's philosopher guides – betray his unquestioning faith as they take the aid of the dark side. Even the perfect empire, Meluha is riddled with a terrible secret in Maika, the city of births. Unknown to Shiva, a master puppeteer is playing a grand game.

In a journey that will take him across the length and breadth of ancient India, Shiva searches for the truth in a land of deadly mysteries – only to find that nothing is what it seems.

Fierce battles will be fought. Surprising alliances will be forged. Unbelievable secrets will be revealed in this second book of Shiva Trilogy, the sequel to the #1 national bestseller, The Immortals of Meluha.'

The Secret of the Nagas is the sequel to The Immortals of Meluha, in the Shiva Trilogy of Amish Tripathi. Although it is called a sequel, I wouldn't exactly put it like that; rather, I'd just say that the author has just split the same story into two books as The Secret of the Nagas starts from exactly where The Immortals of Meluha had its last full stop. Before you go any further, I'd advise you to not read this review in case you haven't read the prequel.

Review

After Swadweep's defeat in the war against Meluha, after meeting some of the people at its capital, Ayodhya, Shiva realises that the Chandravanshis (Swadweepans) are not evil and is convinced that it is the Nagas who are evil and his battle is against them. Shiva seeks vengeance against the Nagas for it was a Naga attack on Mount Mandar in Meluha which led to the death of Brahaspati the scientist and also Shiva's close friend. Nagas are those born to human with strange deformities and are mercilessly abandoned in the lands to the south of the Narmada river by Suryavanshis and Chandravanshis alike. Shiva goes to different places in Swadweep in search of the Naga who led the attack at Mount Mandar along with the Meluhan army general Parvateshwar and the Swadweepan prince Bhagirath.

This book could effectively be termed as a travelogue of Shiva around Swadweep. I liked the plot in this, far better than that of its prequel along with interesting twists and turns combined with the picturesque descriptions of the places in Swadweep. It maintained a much higher pace than that of its prequel making it somewhat a page-turner. Despite the fact that the characters from the prequel are still as lousy as they were, the newly introduced ones such as Prince Bhagirath and the bandit Parshuram have been slightly better who are unlike the highly one sided characters of the prequel.

On the flip side, what I said about for The Immortals of Meluha holds good here as well, such as the highly inappropriate dialogues and a pointless romantic sub-plot. The moment Sati and Shiva got married, I had thought that the romance in this trilogy had come to an end but little did I realise that the author would introduce a pointless one between Princess Anandmayi and General Parvateshwar. Besides, I found it frustrating that hardly anyone is referred to by their name, it is either 'My lord' or 'your highness' all the time.

On a side note, I felt that Amish has probably started anticipating a film considering the popularity of his work since it had everything that a common Indian expects in a film, heroic acts from the protagonists, a battle and romance (just for the sake of it, like in the case of most Indian action films).

Summary

This was better than The Immortals of Meluha, for sure, maintaining a far greater pace, a far better story and with good twists. What wasn't corrected after the first book won't be changed for the final book, I'm sure and the dialogues would remain lousy with the usage of modern Indian slang. This is a good read provided you've read the first book and since it is slightly better than the prequel, it also gets a slightly better rating, seven.

Have a nice day,
Andy

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The Immortals of Meluha by Amish Tripathi - Book Review





Author: Amish Tripathi

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 6/10



Publisher's write-up:



'1900 BC. In what modern Indians mistakenly call the Indus Valley Civilisation.



The inhabitants of that period called it the land of Meluha – a near perfect empire created many centuries earlier by Lord Ram, one of the greatest monarchs that ever lived.



This once proud empire and its Suryavanshi rulers face severe perils as its primary river, the revered Saraswati, is slowly drying to extinction. They also face devastating terrorist attacks from the east, the land of the Chandravanshis. To make matters worse, the Chandravanshis appear to have allied with the Nagas, an ostracised and sinister race of deformed humans with astonishing martial skills.



The only hope for the Suryavanshis is an ancient legend: “When evil reaches epic proportions, when all seems lost, when it appears that your enemies have triumphed. A hero will emerge.”



Is the rough-hewn Tibetan immigrant Shiva, really that hero?



And does he want to be that hero at all?



Drawn suddenly to his destiny, by duty as well as by love, will Shiva lead the Suryavanshi vengeance and destroy evil?



This is the first book in a trilogy on Shiva, the simple man whose karma re-cast him as our Mahadev, the God of Gods.'







The Immortals of Meluha is the first book in the Shiva trilogy, a work of fiction which has become a sensation in India. Shiva is a Hindu god and according to mythology, he is the 'the destroyer of evil' but the author in this story has imagined Shiva to be a common man, leading a tribe at Mount Kailash in Tibet.



Review



Shiva leads the tribe of Gunas in Mount Kailash, where they are having to fight against other tribes everyday for survival, only to retain their possession of the Manasarovar lake. He is a very skilled warrior and is highly respected by his tribesmen. On one fine day, an army officer from the Kingdom of Meluha came up with a strange offer to the Gunas, that is, they could live in Meluha and lead peaceful lives. Meluha is a near perfect kingdom, highly efficient and a prosperous kingdom. Shiva accepts the offer but little did he know that Meluha had their own reason to come up with such a proposal since they were facing terrorist attacks from the enemy kingdom and they needed a saviour and legend had it that a foreigner would come to their rescue when all hope is lost, and the identity of that saviour would be that his throat would turn blue after the intake of somras, known as the food of gods. It so happens that Shiva is that saviour of Meluha, but what could a primitive tribe leader do? Is he ready for the task? Besides, what is the danger that Meluha are facing?



The plot was rather vague in this book, that is, till the end, you don't know what is Shiva's actual task but that doesn't make it boring, by any means. The author is to be appreciated for coming up with this concept, seeing Shiva as a common man, whose good deeds have made him what he is today. The description of the various places in the book was excellent – bringing a clear picture into your mind but what disappointed me was the romantic sub-plot between Shiva and Sati especially during when the Meluhan emperor explains the role of Neelkanth and Shiva just runs off to see her dance. What was more disappointing was the dialogues and the characters; where the dialogue included words like 'goddamnit!', 'in the name of god …' , 'bloody hell', etcetera – very modern usage, not that it is wrong to use such words as the author only tried to connect with the Indian youth but I felt it weird, the kind of setting you visualise and the kind of dialogue that is used. Coming to the characters, they were either 'this' or 'that', that is, there were some who blindly believed in the legend of Neelkanth and others such as General Parvateshwar, who just opposed it and continually screaming 'Jai Shri Ram'. One particular incident in the book even made me feel that the Meluhans lacked moral values, when a particular woman was saved by a Naga (a group of people detested by the Meluhans) from a crocodile but she was still squealing with fright thinking that the Naga was trying to attack her, instead of actually thanking him. From what I read, Shiva was the only person who was a little forward thinking.



 Though the Meluhans claimed that they were a perfect society, I personally believe that they are far from it and some of their systems were absolutely totalitarian. The fact that the place is a monarchy is the first blow and although the monarch doesn't inherit the post, he is only chosen by a select few. The vikarma rule and the Maika system aren't what a person would expect in a perfect society.



Summary



I enjoyed reading the book, to say the least and partially, the reason could be because of the fact that my opinion on any mythological character is the same. Amish Tripathi is definitely a better choice than Chetan Bhagat, if a person is searching for Indian writing in the English language. Regarding the rating, The fact that it had a good story would take it to 6 and it can't come below that, and the concept would take it up to 7 but the poor dialogues and the simple characters would bring it back down to 6 and I hope there is an improvement on these lines in the sequel, The Secret of the Nagas.



Have a nice day,

Andy

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...