CODE TO ZERO

Author      :  Ken Follet

My Rating :  3.4 / 5

220px-CodeToZeroCold war and particularly space race are often one of most discussed topics in the subject of History. Based on this theme, the way how CIA and KGB operate discreetly trying to steal information from each other through double agents is focused in this novel. Ken creates an air of tangible tension throughout the book which is obvious to the genre and storyline he has selected. Usually I mention the highlights of the book in my reviews but this time I would like to mention the things which I learned or felt during my reading.

1. Capitalism vs Communism:

                   “It is something which happens in your childhood, otherwise never”

Well, I should say that I disagree with Ken in this issue. As a kid I was inclined towards Russia and communist ideologies but as I grew I felt that true equality between people in a society can never be achieved even under the control of totalitarian government. Nevertheless, the idea of US born citizens getting influenced by the communist ideology and preparing themselves to deceive their country-land was marvellously narrated by the author. It almost seemed like the author was expressing his idea that sometimes basic instincts and notions dominate personal life and patriotism. I should admit that though I didn’t feel that his idea was practical – the dialogues between the characters were convincing enough.

2. Coup d’etat:

Though I personally believe that capitalism is a better ideology, I shall also note that this is exactly where US loses its points. I knew about the Taliban uprising and Iraqi regime change (partially before reading this book) but when the country of Guatemala was mentioned I came to know that Iraq and Afghanistan were just two of the many coup d’etat missions conducted by America for the benefit of its economic interests. Apparently it was evident how a large section of the society would raise their voice against government actions. But still, how come banana be the reason for a regime change ?!?!?!

3. Swinging relations:

As the story progresses, the hero of the story finds that the man whom he considered as a best friend tries to murder him and the woman who was his college love deceives him in marriage. Also, he comes to know that the man who he chooses to distrust and the woman who he has ignored turn out to help him at the right time. Well sometimes those misunderstandings happen in our lives too, don’t they ?? However, the lead of the story has lived with it for over a decade, too large time to avoid shock – common in espionage activities I guess.

Who can buy this book ?

If you are a person who love spying activities, secret missions, double agents and counter-fights, you will love this book. However you shouldn’t be expecting someone breaching into a foreign country and bringing down a criminal or an organization, rather you should settle with far less than that. Still, the book with its engrossing narration is worth a read if you are a lover of this genre. For others, go for it if you are too bored.

A Novel Trend

Scottish-flag_2109121bCurrently, we can observe mixed emotions in Scotland. While some are wildly celebrating the “NO” result others are grieving over it. Nevertheless, what the rest of the world has to learn from Scotland is to settle their independence issues by the same process of voting peacefully.

CATALONIA: The other day while I was watching a match of F.C Barcelona, I was surprised to hear the commentator mentioning about Catalans, their unique culture, their own language and their struggle to become an Independent nation- a designation which they contained once long ago. How long can Spain counterbalance their desire? The issue will never settle with such an attitude and will only end up in an ugly revolt. Spain can certainly avoid that by following the trend created by Scott’s.

ABKHAZIA / SOUTH OSSETIA : I still remember this issue when Russia locked horns with Georgia over these two provinces. The images are fresh in my mind from the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing when Georgian athletes protest over the aggression and tyranny of Russia and try to globalize this issue on the world stage. Only, if “Scotland ” had happened prior to that perhaps the war could have been stopped or perhaps not. But now, we can hope something fruitful to happen.

REST OF THE WORLD: This may turn out to be a never ending list. Many of the current separation movements are taking place in Europe while Kurdistan in Iraq falls into the rare category outside Europe. I may appear to be ludicrous if I urge for a similar voting system in Iraq considering the country’s current scenario but after watching Scotland, some where down the line I still have a hope for such peaceful referendums.

                                                   Personally, I am an anti-fan of separatism. Weakening of Russia after it’s dissolution from USSR and strengthening of Germany after the fall of Iron Curtain are the classic examples which I always mention when people cross me with this topic. When we can calmly and eloquently convince people by mentioning the advantages of a big nation, perhaps all of the above mentioned nations will vote to remain united to their respective countries. Even if they vote against, I would be equally happy because the decision would have been made without violence.

Football – a real comedy in India

 

Football_IndiaAfter the acclivity of urbanisation in India there are several entities that have taken over the minds of the youth in India. Hollywood movies and T.V. Series fall in the front run which have magnetised their evolving hearts. Consequently, people manage to watch all the movies and serial episodes irrespective of their ratings and genres with subtitles. And sometimes even without, they try to catch the gist of the director’s theme. As Indians are movie lovers right from their birth apart from a very few exceptional cases, they tend to fall in love with the novelty of the story-lines sooner or later.

Similarly, Football has been another front-runner which has started to draw people’s attention. With it, also comes a real comedy onto the centre stage. You will find people who follow Messi or Ronaldo with great zeal and fanaticism but you will also see people who say “I am a fan of Messi”, even without actually watching his game. You will find people who are ardent followers of several clubs, be it Real Madrid or Barcelona but you will also find people who say “I am a follower of Manchester United”, even without the awareness of the roster of players in the club. Recently, since the kick-off of 2014 Indian super league this comedy has spread its wings into almost every individual. The probability of getting an answer of “Who is the captain of Brazil?” from somebody who says that he supports Brazil is very low. It really gets harder to differentiate between these two sets of people. And yes, there are also people who say that football is a boring game, that you need to wait for the goals to be scored. The very attitude which they show while watching Cricket. A match with paucity of fours and sixes is not considered as a good game. I really feel sorry for the bowlers who try to read the batsmen’s mind, come up with variations, alter the speed, take wickets, turn the game and yet never get the fame they deserve. It is similar in Football too, you need to recognise the defenders and goalkeeper !!!

However Cricket was spared after the advent of 20-20 matches, fast and exciting as they term it but Football is here to stay, not to change. All the skills, tactics, passing, blocking, tackling, dribbling, assists, goals and saves are here to stay. In fact to stay forever. People blame that Indian government hasn’t shown enough concern to provide Infrastructure but I blame people who hasn’t shown enough interest towards the game. If infra was the reason you would find people playing gully football just like gully cricket. But, that ain’t the scenario. How can someone ever love a game when he has never put himself into the shoes ? Movies and Cricket somehow tried to dig an area of consideration but Football is still struggling and will continue to struggle and remain as a comedy unless either people tie up their laces or Sunil Chettri and co does a miracle as underdogs just like “Kapil Devils” !!!! The latter is too much to ask for but the former is definitely possible.

The God of Small Things

Author: Arundhati Roy

My Rating: 3.4 / 5 the-god-of-small-thingsIf you ask me to summarize the entire book into a single line, I would say it as ” An ugly story written in a remarkable style of writing. “ As if like the author is trying to entertain us with tragedy weaved with innocence by introducing us to a woman who could not resist her sexual desires, an Indian who marries a foreigner against the dislike of his parents, a paravan ( a sect of backward caste ) who could not realize his limitations in the society and most importantly two twins: Ambassador Elvis Presley and Love in Tokyo who represent themselves as “we” and “us”, as if they are one soul residing in two bodies. I would like to mention the highlights of the book.

1. Siblings affinity: Truly,things can change in a day. Separated and united by destiny, the author illustrates the love between two twins of opposite gender who knew each other even before they began life. I loved a particular line in the novel where Rahel opens the door for Estha though he didn’t knock the door. Strange and almost difficult to understand how a person can realize the presence of other, when they come close to us. I felt a little uneasy when I came across such lines or like a white moth spreading its wings on my heart, if I had to say in the style of author. Because I never had or seen someone else experience love to such an extent !!

2. Indians of 80’s and 90’s: Or perhaps I should mention as Keralites specifically. Right from childhood I always loved Kerala due to its low population growth rate compared to other states which I personally believe as a good factor in the growth of India. Let it be the influence of Christianity and its education or the history of the world’s first democratically elected communist government or the oppression of people belonging to backward and scheduled castes or the Plymouth car or the tangerine radio, Roy gives a brilliant narration of all the tangible and non-tangible things of the late 20th century which are adored by a reader of early 21st century, someone like me.

3. Needs vs feelings: Sex, perhaps one of the most uncontrollable desires of mankind, the root of many wars and casualties, the reason for many pages in the books of history finds its way into our story too. A young teenager who lusts a Christian father and expects him to satisfy her, an woman, most importantly a widow and mother of two children creeping through the shadows of night to quench her desires, a divorced man who uses the special door of his house for his secret visitors or his man’s needs are all real characters in the world just represented as a fiction in the book. But, astonishingly you will also find this natural desire making its way between two twins when they meet after years of separation !! Where all the above cases were needs, this one was a feeling and where all the above cases were sex, this one was a way of expressing love !!!

Who can buy this book ? If it wasn’t for Roy, I would have rated this book much lower. If you are a kind of person who enjoy a good storyline ( unless you admire tragedy ), you can move on without looking at it. But if you are a kind of person who fancies the narration of an author and the way he/she uses the language to picture the characters and their inter-connections, or the beauty of story-telling as to simply put it, then definitely add this book to your cart for a literature sized hole in your heart !!!

The Street Lawyer

Author: John Grisham

My Rating: 3.7 / 5

200px-Street_Lawyer

One thing for sure to be known by all the readers of this book after its completion: “Basic attributes of Law”.  I had never read a novel ever before which puts you into engaging excitement right from page 2. Such was the impact left by Grisham but however you will never find that rush of adrenaline again apart from several minor occasions. The entire mood is primarily based on the lifestyle of squatters and the suffering of homeless people. Grisham too like Archer kept the vocabulary simple, perhaps to impress readers like me. I would like to mention the highlights of the book.

1. Trivial nature of money:

I loved this theme used by the author when the hero of the novel moves away from a million-dollar firm to a non-profit organization as a result of several circumstances faced unexpectedly. Ultimately he finds the joy in helping the dying and the destitute. The greediness of rich people and the unwillingness shown by them in helping the homeless is highlighted by the author. However, the lead of the story finds a radical change within himself from the extent where he used to charge a thick amount for his clients at the old firm and to the extent where he whole-heartedly refuses to charge even a single penny at his new firm. He recalls the memories from his graduation where all of his classmates promised to use their law education to help the righteous side without the lust for money. Money which once made him to stand up on his heels and chase down anything and almost everything has slowly become trivial to him.

2. Tenderness of relationships:

Probably, one of the common scenarios which we seldom observe in our own lives. In my opinion relationships get anchored when you spare and spend time with the other person and will break when you fail to do it. More or less this is what that happens to the hero of the story, he aims to become a partner at the firm and works hard and in order earns a lot from his billings but fails to better his relationship with his wife Claire. Claire, who works as a doctor doesn’t succeed in finding time as she too like her husband runs back of money and finally gets divorced to end an unsatisfying marriage. However, the hero finds an another woman later in the story but nevertheless, the author gives a beautiful message regarding the effects of uncompromising attitudes and imbroglios in relationships.

3. Uncertainity of future:

30 days is all that takes for the lead of the story to change his life drastically between two ends of his life. It thrilled me when I realized the fact about how unsure the future is and we never know what tomorrow holds for us. But, we do believe change is good and it happens for good reasons. We may lament for several events which occur in our lives but as our life progresses we realize that everything happens for a reason and it starts making perfect sense to us. The same theme is applicable to the hero who is initially bewildered by the circumstances he had faced but at the end he turns out to be a happy man, in fact a lot better than what he actually was !!!

Who can buy this book ?

The reason why I rated this book below 4 is due to the belabouring of the author on the lifestyle of homeless people which appeared unnecessary to me. Apart from that the book had a very good story-line with essential elements mixed up to keep the reader engrossed. All the newbies and first-time readers can buy this book due to the simple usage of vocabulary. Also, voracious readers looking for a slight change of genre can opt for it.

KANE & ABEL

Author       :  Jeffrey Archer

My Rating :  4.3 / 5

Kane and Abel

My first book of Archer and most probably the lengthiest novel I had ever read. The best part of it is that the level of the language used is not too high and would be appealing to any moderate speaker. A story spanning around 60 years including the struggles,  challenges, love, success and revenge of two men, one a native to America and the other, a Polish immigrant starting from their childhood spirits to youthful ambitions and to old age regrets and wishes. The historical incidents of The Titanic, World-war 1, 1929 depression, World-war 2 along with the parallel presence of U.S presidents from Hoover to Kennedy keeps the novel interesting and gives a gripping read. I want to mention the highlights of the book:

The Harvard Debate:

One of the splendid part of book, where the issue of the debate is primarily between the quality of life benefits and sustainability benefits of capitalist and socialist ideologies respectively of which one of the two heroes is a part. Four people with four different styles of representing themselves, some conventional and some unconventional, some taking a good initiative and others giving a good conclusion, one of them who had let his emotional intelligence come in rather than rational thinking, one of them who logically attacks the political platform, one of them speaking well to the point and the other with a gentle and persuasive presentation. From the incantations of American radicalism to failure of democratic socialism, the debate had a lot of aspects covered along which makes it one of the striking features of the novel. I kept wondering what it would be like being a part of such an intellectual session !!!!

 Struggle of prisoners:

The second hero of the novel, a native to Poland struggles himself against the fear of death and apprehensive future who has been kept in the dungeons for three years by the Germans during the World-war 1, later captured by the Russians and taken to the prisoner camps faces many brutal treatments in his life and finally reaches America to begin his new career full of hope and optimism. The author sharply points to the dealings of the prisoner camps and the pains and humiliation faced by the Polish people from both the sides during the war conditions. Can you believe that combining the fatalities of both the world wars, Poland has the highest number of human loss more than any other country on the planet including Germans? Even I was not aware of it till reading the novel……!!!!!

The ’29 depression:

I first came across this terminology during the 2008 recession period and all that I knew was depression is the next stage of recession and the situation in 1929 was worse than what we were facing in the early 21st century. Never before has such an interest been invoked into me particularly while reading a novel, which made me to browse the social and economic conditions during the Great Depression and the factors which have lead to it and how the situation has been pulled back completely. The author, of course, highlighted the mental disturbances faced by people during the period where many cases have even ended up into miserable suicides, how people changed from something to nothing within a matter of days, heavy growth of unemployment and nevertheless the struggles of both the heroes to fight for themselves and their trusted ones. This phase of chronology acts as a key changing point to the rest of the novel where the two heroes actually meet each other in person.

Who can buy this book?

As the age of both the leading characters ranges from birth-death, this book would be suitable for all the age groups. Some readers wish that the novel should never end. For such voracious readers, the good news is that there is a sequel for this book named as ‘The Prodigal Daughter’. Even I am looking forward to read it at the first opportunity. If you are a reader who imagine yourself as one of the characters in the book, then go ahead because I bet this one will not disappoint you and that’s for sure.

CHANAKYA’S CHANT

Author – Ashwin Sanghi

My Rating –  4 / 5

History is the most fascinating thing when it comes to novels. I heard the name of Chanakya for the first time during a budget session being carried out by the finance minister of India, denoting him as an ace economist known till date. After reading the novel it appeared to me as if most of the Indian movies have been inspired from various themes of Chanakya’s biography such as revenge, fighting for justice, sacrificing love etc. The history of Chanakya interweaves with the politics of modern India suffering from religious differences, caste feeling and corruption. These two stories run parallel to each other, with the latter inheriting the ideologies of the former. I would like to mention the highlights of the book:

340 B.C:

The history has been effectively narrated as it deals with the tyranny of the lustrous emperor Dhanananda, who controlled the major portion of present day geography of India and who executes the innocent and revolutionary Chanak, father of Chanakya for his selfish needs. This marks as the beginning of the story, which is later followed by the journey of Chanakya to Taxila University, arguably the first established university in the entire world which graduated many students and princes from India, China, Korea and central Asian territories in various streams. The epic picks up its pace as Chanakya grows to the position of a teacher at the University. He believed that strength lies in unity and wanted to unify Bharat under an able emperor to protect the country from external forces. At a point of time I felt that I reopened my history book of 9th standard as I passed through the phase of the Greek hero Alexander’s invasion of Sindh defeating the powerful emperor Paurus in a battle and reinstalling him into the throne as an honour of his bravery shown in the battlefield. The later epic deals with how Chanakya succeeded in making Chandragupta Maurya, one of his trusted disciples as the emperor of unified Bharat using his cunning tactics.

For a brief period I wondered whether Chanakya was positive or negative. He misuse’s his childhood crush, asks his disciple to trap a princess under an illusion of being loved, play’s dirty political tricks in order to achieve his personal goal, but what keeps him positive throughout is the very goal which he wants to achieve.

Modern politics:

                                         The fiction part of this historical fiction begins when a man by name Gangasagar finds an ancient tabloid in Sanskrit language at the ruins of Pataliputra, the capital city of Chandragupta which contains the chant as mentioned in the title of the novel encrypted on it. He resembles the Chanakya character of ancient India. The character of Chandragupta is inherited by Chandinigupta, dramatically both Chandra and Chandini meaning the same word moon but surprisingly the latter being a female. Even this story gave me the same feeling that whether Gangasagar was a good or a bad guy. He forces Chandini to be single and never lets her to fall in permanent masculine relations. He deceives several people and never let them to grow in their political career after using their popularity. He involves in share-market scams, bribes several journalists, misuses the electoral voting machines and uses every dirty trick possible to bring his beloved and selected candidate Chandini closer to the throne of Prime minister of India.

I wonder what impression would Pakistani and Chinese citizens will have once they read this book, as it deals with the possible operations undertaken by RAW(Research and Analysis Wing) agents in the interiors of respective countries. Well Sanghi, though it is an open truth, you cannot tell it openly !!!

Women power:

                                     It appeared to me as if there was lust, prostitution and fornication in almost every chapter, both in ancient and modern India. Many downfalls of emperors and destruction of politicians are a result of these carnal desires. Though the author didn’t make any such statement, I realized that women are not only the positive power who result in the creation of humanity but can also be a negative power if they are misused or when their mental instability of control are taken as an advantage. After all, this is what we learn from history or literature……..a lesson !!!!

Who can buy this book ?

                                         I can assure you that this novel is not a history textbook. Actually, anybody can read this book irrespective of their age and gender but I recommend it to people who have a reasonable knowledge in politics as well as economics. Here, I don’t mean to say that you can’t enjoy this book if you don’t, but you can’t enjoy it to the maximum because the particular phase of novel where it deals with these aspects may turn out to be dry. If you want to witness the possible political change in India, then go ahead as this book provides a thrilling visual