Historical Fiction

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Book Review : Harappa – The Curse Of The Blood River

Published August 29, 2017 by vishalvkale

The fantasy genre seems to be the in-thing for Indian writers nowadays; we have seen a series of books around this theme, a few having reached my blog as well. This is in keeping with a rising trend among Indians, a fascination for our past – which  has both positive as well as negative overtones and ramifications. One of the positives is the emerging trend of fiction writing using our past as a backdrop; this is a significant factor, as these writings influence the public to seek more of the truth, as well as get regarded by some as based on truth.
Written By Vineet Bajpai

That is why it is incumbent on the authors who are indulging in this genre to be as close to the truth as it is feasible for them to be – and give a proper bibliography at the end of such  books so that fact can be separated from “literary licence” – that is, the padding used by the author to flesh out the story. East or west, most writers {save one} have failed on this score; they just neglect to give a proper bibliography or notes so that readers can, if interested, look up the reality. This book fails on only one point – the absence of end-notes giving links or book references to sources of facts. That has cost it one star.
THE BOOK
Harappa – The Curse Of The Blood River by Vineet Bajpai is a fantasy novel {I wont label it as Historical Fiction} that is based on The Sindhu-Saraswati Civilization, and the mythical Aryan Invasion Theory {fed to us as gospel}, and their modern ramifications. The story is told in two parts – one from 1700 BC, and the other from modern India, with a strong connecting thread. The ancient story tells the sequence of events that lead to the destruction of Harappa, and the modern one takes off from there, dealing with its implications, effects and resultant conspiracies arising from the ancient event.

In the ancient part, the story is that of a Demi-God, who is targeted and destroyed by jealous rivalry in the city of Harappa, and how he rises from the ashes to swear revenge on the city and its people; it is the story of naked greed and ambition. The modern part deals with his descendant, who is fabled to be his re-incarnation, and how he deals with his legacy; for the ancient tale has left a curse that will be fulfilled, and a secret that cannot  be unveiled – which has managed to garner significant interest among powerful modern vested interests and sects / groups. The problem is that the modern vested interests have powerful backing, even more powerful weapons and the will to use them to kill the current Demi-God, a reluctant Demi-God who is now a digital expert, top Industrialist, and ultra modern to boot!
THE ANALYSIS
First-  the classification; I place this as Fantasy due to the treatment of main characters as Demi-Gods, and there being small but significant differences from the truth of The Sindhu-Saraswati that make it less of historical fiction, and more of fantasy. That said – the overall gist, rather 80-90% of the basis is factual. For example, The AMT, and its rebuttal is reasonably correct; as is the fictionalization of our history, which isn’t limited to The Sindhu-Saraswati, and many other points. The Sindhu Saraswati Civilization had started declining from 2500BC, and was dead by 1900BC, whereas the timelines uses 1700 BC. Next, The Sindhu-Saraswati was decimated by creeping drought, unlike as stated in this book.
That said – let me be clear, some of this research on which I have based the above facts is still only the preliminary stage findings, and need peer review; some of it is still being actively researched and so on; in light of that, the author is perfectly within his rights to take literary leeway for the creation of a story.  This will also have the benefit of kindling the desire to read up on that time in us, thus overall, it is a good thing that these historical fiction and fantasy novels are being written!
Coming to the book – this is an excellent tome; a superb edge-of-the-seat spell binding pace has been kept throughout the book. You will desperately want to skip to the end to see how it turns out, and yet – the pull of the narrative is compelling, preventing you from doing so. The author has used an interleaving style – having a chapter from ancient as well as modern storylines alternating; this is actually a good style, as it adds to the suspense as each chapter ends at a cliff-hanger, leaving you wanting for more – but then you go into the other storyline, which is also on a cliffpoint!
Overall, I rate this book 4 stars, and a very richly deserved 4 stars at that. This is an excellent piece of fiction – and it also avoids the vulgarity totally. The story is well put together, without any holes that I could spot; the entire plot comes together as one whole quite convincingly. There are no needless detours : almost everything written is relevant, making for a very taut narrative and flawless flow. The various characters stay within the prescribed plots, and the story draws you in, making for good entertainment and a great read! 

“This Book Review/Interview is a part of The Readers Cosmos Book Review Program and Book Promotions” to know more log on to http://thereaderscosmos.blogspot.in/.”

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Book Review : The Wrong Turn

Published May 22, 2017 by vishalvkale

Disclaimer: This is a work of historical fiction – and if some of it has any basis in facts, I, the reviewer, am not aware of them {insofar as they pertain to underlined word}

MY RATING :
As a Fiction Book : 4.5 Stars…
As a work of Historical Fiction :   2-2.5 Stars…
Why this difference? Because I am an amateur historian, and a researcher on the Indian Colonial Period in particular, having studied well over 40 authentic books and manuscripts from all possible viewpoints in a research study that is into its 9th year now, and will in all likelihood continue for at least another few years to come. The increasing penchant to study the INA is welcome, as its contribution is not known to us Indians. But the rising popular belief that it was only the INA that got us independence does not have basis in the facts so far as I am aware; basis my long study. And that is why I don’t welcome fiction works on the INA, it is way too important a subject.  
THE FACTS AS PER MY RESEARCH, IN SHORT
The INA was a key factor in Independence, that much is historical fact. But it wasn’t the only factor; a complete explanation is beyond the scope of this review article. The other factors were, rising feeling of nationalism courtesy The Mahatma and the INC, the rising factor of communal tensions, and the Linlithgow-Jinnah duplicity or what I like to call the Anglo-Pakistani pact were just some of the other factors. It was the INC and its mass movements that drove the message of “India” into the people – a comparison of writings from the 1700s, 1800s and the 1900s brings that out in finality; further, by the mid-1940s, India was almost ungovernable by the British. The final nail in the Raj’s Coffin was the INA – and it is the INA which hasn’t got the credit it so richly deserves.

Sanjay Chopra & Namita Roy Ghose



 THE BOOK
The book is a heart-rending story of love, betrayal and strong characters dominated by ambition, desire and outright greed, set in the backdrop of the Second Great European War of 1939-1945. It is the story of three people : a complete bastard, a wayward and hopeless misbegotten hero/anti-hero, and a nice but tough girl with her priorities set right. It is the story, above all, of one man, and one man only : Debraj Mukherjee, a man with too many mistakes to count, a man with few redeeming qualities – and how he changes, or rather is buffeted by circumstances to change into what he becomes.  
Cirucumstances force Debraj to abandon home & family, where he stumbles onto the INA – and doesn’t betray them. From there he starts changing as he meets his future best friend, Nishonko Mitra; a complete bastard with no redeeming qualities, a swine who loves his kid sister {Pg 109 – specific reference to sister as relationship[} amorally & sexually – but a patriot all the same. This man is easily by far and away the most reprehensible and ugly character I have ever read in my life.
These, then, are the three principals : Debraj, already on the run; gets deeper and deeper into the INA – and likes what it is all about, as he slowly overcomes his faults and rises like a phoenix; Nishonko, the evil bastard, as he sinks from the high perch of a patriot into a hell-hole of incest, as he “loves” {God forgive me} his own kid sister {moonh-boli, but so what?}; and the inimitable Aditi, the frontispiece of the book, the charming and delightful, near-flawless lady who carries the story and ALL the accolades.
One of these three will fall; one of these three will betray India, the INA, and the other two… who will it be?  Will it be the incestuous Nishonko? Or will it be Debraj – the former anglophile, who once aspired for all things British, a man who joined the INA as  last resort,  whose sister is still in danger in the Raj? Or will it be the Lady Aditi – the poor, poor Aditi, chased by her Brother {though in his mind only}, separated by war from her lover? For two of these three rise to become close to The Netaji, as the war progresses and The INA reaches Kohima, set for its pivotal battle against The British… Who will fall – the one who was already a fallen man at the start of the story, or the one who was already an established beacon of patriotism, nationalism and impeccable personal character – or The Lady?  
THE ANALYSIS
As a work of fiction – this book deserves a standing ovation; I give it 4 stars, but it can easily merit 5 stars even. Let us settle for 4.5 Stars as a compromise – this is a superb, unputdownable book of astounding skill. This is a book of action, raw pumping action; at the same time, it is a book of passionate love that blossoms into a mature and stunning love story; it is a book of incest & dark one-sided passion; all at the same time, all in one book. That is a remarable achievement.
A special mention of the characetarisation : each character and supporting character has been developed with consummate skill. You can see Debraj growing into a decent man with each page; you can see and agree with the changes. You can see the fall shattering fall of Nishonko into Evil; you can see Aditi growing into a patriot and a great Lady. Even the supporting staff has been adequately developed, and along completely logical lines.
The book is not a fast read, as it is a highly involved and complex story. Yet, it is a riveting tale, skillfully told. The action seems realistic, the characters abosorbing – and they tend to stay with you even after you close the book and put it down. All in all,  great book – one you should definitely read! 

Book Review – Ashok : The Lion of Maurya

Published February 12, 2017 by vishalvkale

ASHOK – THE LION OF MAURYA
by Ashok K Banker

Only a select few persona from history have as wide and as huge an impact on Modern India, and Indians in general, than Devanampiya Piyadassi, from the Maurya dynasty. This is one name that actually does reverberate across the length and breadth of the land; this name invites immediate recognition, and sense of pride, a sense of awe, and a sense of deep respect. He does this by the virtue of his deeds which encompass the achievements of a fearsome warrior king, a development focused good monarch, and a deeply spiritual peace-loving ruler of the land.
People may not know his by his full name, but will immediately recognize his better known name : Ashok! Not much is known about the real Ashok; that said, there are extensive surviving literary records, most of them in the manuscripts Ashokaavadaan, Mahaavamsa and Paalivamsa, which as per my readings {Given here – Book Review: Ashok The Great} , are the principal literary sources of his life. {There are others, like the Divyavadan for example} I make this point to underscore that there are massive gaps in the life of Ashok; there are many small contradictions, & a lack of continuity. And the creation a fiction book series based on the life of Devanampiya Piyadassi Ashok  is a laudable effort.
THE BOOK
The current book, the first in the series, is titled Ashok – The Lion of Maurya {For the life of me I cannot fathom why Indians insist on the trailing “A” when penning proper names in English! To be precise, the actual book is Ashoka – The Lion of Maurya; the trailing A is fine in Maurya due to the following vowel sound!}. Lets be crystal clear here : this is a work of fiction. It comes under historical fiction, and cannot be treated as anything else, as I point out in detail in the review section. This book is based on the early years of his life as a young prince, and traces the internal challenges he faced when young.
THE REVIEW
First, history. Now it is thought that Ashok, in some manuscripts from ancient India, was known as ChandAshok {cruel Ashok} in his early days, before rising to what he became eventually. This is however debated by some historians. Second, his Biological Mother Dharma {Shubhadraangi} has also been debated, though is generally accepted as his mother. Third, his accession to the throne is under discussion, as the accepted version of fratricide and killing may not be right. That discussion is beyond the scope of this review; please read the compilation in the link in the second para above.
Not much is known of his early phase. The sources are the Ashokaavadaan which is a 2nd Century text; the other two are Buddhist texts. There is a clear contradiction in many points – Kaling War, The Coronation etc where the numerous historical, literary and archeological records do not suffice. While his greatness is not in question – the contents of all the sources put together pretty much put that beyond reasonable doubt; the fact remains that there isn’t enough detail present to put together a life story. When reading this series, it is my opinion that readers should keep this uppermost in their minds. We are reading a fictional telling of the story of Ashok the Great.
Thus, I will make no attempt to compare history with this book; there is much we need to learn. The book itself – it is an excellent one, well written, with a very fast pace, action oriented. It tells the story of a prince, who loves his family, and is a devoted and loyal prince to the Emperor {this much seems true as per my readings}, as well as a brother with deep caring for his elder brother Sushim; which is borne out by the inscriptions on the edicts.
It is the story of royal intrigue, internal politics, murder and plotting; this part has been very skillfully put together in a flawless narrative that makes for absorbing reading. It tells the story of a family fighting internal squabbles, as well as external enemies; you get entrapped into the story, the pages pull you in as the plot twists and turns every few pages with a rapidity that is awesome. The story has been crafted really well, and the whole package works quite well. It gives the reader an enthralling fascinating read!
I have placed emphasis on the history and its  gaps  for a reason – we are talking of a legend, one of the finest Indians from Ancient India, a leader & a king whose symbols are the chosen symbols of the Modern Indian State. Given that background, it needs to be stated that the historical record has some gaps,  which the author himself underscores; as also the fact that this is historical fiction. The book is true to the major aspects of history; that is true. Especially, the bonding between the Sushim and Ashok as well as the pressures have been developed really well, which is appreciable.
The series should be interesting to see how this particular and vital relationship is developed, and which road the story now takes from hereon; I am waiting eagerly to see the author’s interpretation. But the start is very promising; Ashok comes across as the one I have read about – not the one in the legends; as does Sushim. You can already see snippets of the more famous Ashok begin to shine through. This  is an approach that is logical, consistent with one side of the argument as I have read it; my references are in the linked Book Review of the book Ashok The Great, which is a compilation of a couple of dozen books by historians on the famous King Ashok the Great. All in all, an excellent effort which has a very promising start to it. Worth a read, definitely so. 

Book Review : Saraswati’s Intelligence

Published January 29, 2017 by vishalvkale

SARASWATI’S INTELLIGENCE
Part 1 of the Kishkindha Chronicles
Author – Vamsee Juluri
A Word About The Publisher
This book is published by Westland Books, to whose products I was first exposed to 2-3 years ago; since then, I have been noting the consistently high quality of their products – both in terms of variety, content as well as external finishing. They have branded themselves through unmatched quality, and attained a level of performance and  a place for themselves in this highly competitive industry. Yet again, we get treated to an excellent book; keep up the good work, Team Westland!
THE PLOT
Image result for saraswati's intelligenceThe book is a work of fiction;  a very interesting, fascinating re-telling of a part of The Ramayan : The Story {fictionalized} of Lord Hanuman. This is the first part of a series; a series which focuses on Lord Hanuman {or someone so closely resembling Hanuman that there can be no doubt who the author is referring to}. This is an important distinction to make – as I connect up in the review portion. The series is around Kishkindha, the Kingdom of King Vali {Bali in the real history of The Ramayan}
The book describes an almost mesmerizing, fantastic and completely believable land of total peace {which one can readily equate to Satyug}; a land in which there is no bloodshed, no evil and total harmony. Fittingly, it becomes clear from literally the first page that the series describes the descent of humanity from that high and haloed perch. Again, this is in keeping with the established history of The Ramayan. The extrapolation from history to recreate that time has been superbly done, making for a really fascinating and captivating read.
The story starts from a young Hanuman {I will Jettison the word Lord, since the book refers to fictional characters, not the Lord Himself} playing with the elder Vali and Sugreev. It chronicles how Sugreev and Hanuman fall out of favour when they break the law of peace and bloodshed by pure accident; how they are banished from the society, and traces the path they take. It traces the coming of age of Hanuman, and how he starts to become the all-powerful hero that the Real Lord Hanuman is known to be. The parallels to the real story are near-flawless, and well executed.
The story revolves around the start of fighting in this peaceful land, as the noble people are overcome one by one, until they come face to face with the now-angry peaceful people of Kishkindha in the climax of this part of the series. The enemy is a primordial enemy, less cultured, less civilized, almost animalic in behaviour. It has a rather interesting take on Lord Ganesh {This is an assumption; the name may be coincidental – the further story will tell}; in the book, The Land of Ganesh is populated by Elephants; there is a take on Naraklok as well, with flesh-devouring birds, loosely represented by and named Jatayu. All in all, it contains every element of The Ramayan; and yet is sufficiently different to make it an original fiction story that is at best loosely based on historical events from our ancient history.
THE REVIEW
First things first : the book is a very interesting, mesmerizing and fascinating re-imagination of our history. The treatment of all characters is tender, well thought out, and does not incite any passions. Now this is a tremendous achievement, given that you are dealing with The Ramayan, a book that is closest to the heart of every Sanaatan Dharmi. Playing fiction with characters as real and powerful as Lord Hanuman, Goddess Saraswati etc is no joke; and the Author successfully manages to keep the two separate in our minds. These have powerful contemporary relevance to the modern follower of Sanaatan Dharm, wrongly called Hinduism, hence the tasteful, tender and logical treatment is welcome.
I have to admit – at no point did the book incite any objection or passion whatsoever, even from a person like me; an ardent reader of our ancient scriptures as well as history, and a devoted Sanaatani. Not only that, the book is written very well indeed from a novel or fiction perspective as well; it is a fast, rapid read, is fun and without any needless side-lines and twists. The author had of course, one powerful advantage – he had no need for detailed characterization, as he could simply build on public memory; this has been skillfully achieved.
The upshot of this, which I call a massive advantage {though Westland and Mr Juluri will differ, quite obviously} is that this is a book specifically targeted at the Sanaatani reader. If you are not a Sanaatan Dharm follower, then this book may not make much sense to you, or may not have much of a connect with you. Make of that what you will; that is my recommendation. The immediate connect the material has is due to the patkatha, the background which we can immediately  recognize. That this connect has been properly nurtured through a host of cultural clues and similarities is a tribute to the skill of the author, who has assiduously built an excellent story based on our cultural history
The biggest aspect of the book lies elsewhere; though this will be clear only to ardent readers of our ancient literature, people with a relatively deep reading of that ancient time. The re-imagination of that time is so logically done, so in keeping with what is stated in the historical literature, that one easily imagines that this is how it could have happened. The Ramayan clearly describes a far long gone time, almost pre-historic; there are many indications of that. And the re-imagination of that society, of the life through small hints, like how the Gadaa came into being seem very logical. This is what impresses deeply in this re-telling or re-imagination. All in all, rated 4 stars out of 5!

Book Review : Kurukshetra {The Aryavarta Chronicles Book 3}

Published January 21, 2015 by vishalvkale

THE ARYAVARTA CHRONICLES : BOOK 3

KURUKSHETRA

Written By : Krishna Udayashankar


The book says that it is “The Epic As It Was Never Told”; well, it is all of that. This is a book that has churned up everything in The Mahabharat, and made it into a story that is unbelievable, and incoherent. I rate it 2 stars out of 5, at the most 3 stars; and these are for the writing and the prose, which is top-notch. Credit where credit is due. Not only that, the plot build-up and the entire story is told in a stupendous and taut narrative, literally edge of the seat stuff throughout, and at a frenetic pace.

This is the third part of the series, and straight off let me clarify : if you haven’t read the first 2 parts, dont come anywhere near this book. It will be a task just to make sense out of it all. In the initial reading, I was so irritated at the lack of clarity that I just up and quit reading this book. Then, I sat for a while after lunch, carefully read the initial character list, made associations in my mind, and re-attacked the book; only then did the story begin to make sense.

This part of the series deals with the last part of The Mahabharat; from the pre-war negotiations to the end of the epic. The war itself takes up a very large part of the book, with the political intrigues and negotiations, punches and counterpunches making up an exciting and taut first part. Once you make sense of the story and the characters, the flow is effortless, and the story riveting. 

The real key to enjoying this book is rising above your own feelings : that is the hard part. You have to take this not as a retelling of the epic, but just as another war story between two clans: that is what it is. The story told has no similarity with The Mahabharat. I shall not state more, as I am not an expert in the epic. But I have read extensively on ancient India, as my book reviews reveal; and to me, the story told does not have any resemblance to The Mahabharat. 

It almost reverses the role of the Pandavs and the Kauravs, it places entirely unwarranted interpretations on various aspects of even relationships; and presents an ugly picture of almost all the good characters. In fact, all characters are etched in dark shades, with an ugly machiavelian side to them. It places the intent of the war as the creation of a land ruled by the people; it presents the various characters in completely different and unbelievable shades.  

In fact, if anything, this book is the exact reverse of The Mahabharat in more ways than one, and contains many what I can call errors. Some of these are extremely offensive, and have the capability to infuse some passion. Most critically, the one significant flaw in the book as it seems to me is the one of recency bias; the interpretation is modern; it imposes modern cultural values and modern norms, societal and political constructs and behaviours into the and onto the ancient world. 

For example, the emphasis on a war meant to create a land for-the-people and by-the-people. The earliest form of this was admittedly in ancient India, with the Gana Sanghas – but even these were not strict democracies, and were oligarchies. There is no record of any other venture than the Gana Sanghas in ancient India. And as I stated, even these were ruled in turn by the intelligentsia. 

The entire play between characters, the presentation of the women, the love stories, the behaviour of both the good and the bad characters just does not ring true; I have read some aspects of the Vedic period culture, and when I keep that in mind, this is elevated even further. The story seems post-modern in everything, but told in an ancient setting. The behaviour, the norms of the society, all are instantly identifiable and recognizable as modern, right till the last character. The interpretation of ancient events  is attempted from a modern time-frame, not in the setting in which these happened. The entire sequence of events just does not click… 

But, if you can rise above these inconsistencies, then this is a really good piece of fiction. The story is fast-moving and told at a frenetic pace; the plot is exciting and contrived, albeit inspired by The Mahabharat. The characterisation is slightly minimalist, but that is only to be expected in a work of this scale and scope, spanning generations and dozens of characters. And, the icing on the cake : the level of complexity is far greater than most books in the fiction genre. My rating : zero stars as a retelling of The Mahabharat, and 5 stars as a work of pure fiction!


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Book Review : The Mahabharat Quest

Published November 23, 2014 by vishalvkale

THE MAHABHARAT QUEST : THE ALEXANDER SECRET
By Christopher C.  Doye


About the Author : 

Before he finally embarked on the journey of achieving his childhood dreams, Christopher pursued a career in the corporate world, graduating from St. Stephens College, Delhi with a degree in Economics and studying business management at IIM Calcutta. Over the course of his corporate career, he has worked with leading multinational organizations like Coats Viyella, Hilton Hotels, IBM and The Economist Group, before setting up Dynamic Results India, a strategic consultancy in India in partnership with Dynamic Results LLC which is based in the US.
THE PLOT

As the title itself hints, this is a book that is based on two totally unconnected historical events in India : The Mahabharat, and Alexander’s invasion. The plot interleaves two parallel stories – that of ancient Greece, and the modern-day story running in parallel. In ancient Greece, events unfold rapidly, as Alexander first decides to go on a secret quest for something buried deep in the story of The Mahabharat; and subsequently, after his death, the events rapidly become an effort to conceal that secret…

In the Modern Day, two stories intertwine : an ancient papyrus is found by an American scientist; leading to his murder; a group of American Archeologists open an ancient tomb, only to be ambushed; only one survives, escapes and lives to fight another day. She is hunted ruthlessly for the secret contained withn the tomb; only problem is she herself hasnt any idea what the secret is! In a parallel story, a pharmaceutical lab accident in an American company reveals several dead bodies, and hints of clandestine research; the investigation into which is being conducted by the IB, with the collaboration of the US…this seemingly unrelated set of events, with no apparently logical connect, forms the base plot of the story… what is the connect? How are the connected? Read the book to find out!




THE ANALYSIS

First, let us get the negative out of the way; this is another of the books that is approximately in the Da Vinci Code style. This is not exactly a true negative; Dan Brown was the creator of that Genre – others are now giving depth and breadth to this new genre with their skill. The interleaving stories has also been tried by Ashwin Sanghi earlier – but then again, that is neither here not there. This is a narrative style and plot outline that has been used by this Author. Question is, is it a me-too, or does it have sufficient points of variance to enable a classification as an original work of writing? Yes, it does. The similarity stops right there; the story, plot, treatment, development are all independent, and interesting. 

The book is a fast-paced historical thriller; the story develops quite rapidly, fast and is yet easy to follow. This is important – since there are 3 plots you have to follow {most books of this style have 2} – the life threat on the archeologist; the pharmaceutical angle, and the ancient greek past. This has been done quite skillfully; it must have been difficult, with 3 plot-lines. Well done, Christopher! 

Character development could have been better; but here, the author has chosen to sacrifice detail for the sake of the pace of the story. This is an understandable choice, given the complexity of the plot layout. Having said that, a little more filling in would have elevated this book to another level entirely. As it currently stands, the level of detail is enough to take the story forward at speed without any distractions.

The  book is a fast, engrossing thriller that keeps you glued to its pages. It has been written by an Indian – so there are no bloopers or ludicrous cultural pronouncements, unlike western books concerning India, which are frankly outlandish to say the least. This is a book that provides you with an entertaining read; is fast & engrossing. It is an enjoyable, rapid read that can easily be rated 4 stars, or even 4.5 stars out of 5…


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Book Review: The Da Vinci Code: Courting Controversy????

Published May 10, 2013 by vishalvkale

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THE DA VINCI CODE by Dan Brown… The book that generated worldwide discussion only to be rivalled by The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie… The book that was only outsold by The Harry Potter Series… The book that captivated all who came in its wake… 
This is not a review about the much – publicised flaws or its religious implications, but rather a critical look at the book as well as the author… 
THE BOOK 
A lot has been said about the storyline… so let me present just a short precis of the story here. My review is not about the story per se… 
The book starts with the murder of the curator of the Louvre in Paris. Apparently, the victim has scribbled in French and Mathematics upon the floor in his own blood. Below the french and numbers is written “PS: Find Robert Langdon” in pure english {Note that point: more later} 
The book moves on from that point with revelation after controversial revelation based upon historical artefacts {some pretty famous ones at that!}, that leave the reader gasping for breath. The beauty is in the way the clues connect to each other, and in the pace at which they are revealed. However, the real pull is the facts upon which these clues are based {note that point: more later} 
The clues lead the protagonists from one artefact to another, starting with the stunning revelation that the curator was a member of the priory of sion, a famous secret body. It is a trail that leads across nations, interspersed with episodes of altercations with the police breathtakingly unfolded in the pages that follow – in a chase that forces the protagonists as well as {albeit for a very short time} the readers to re-think the very basis of religion… A truly stunning use of peoples’ imaginations combined with writing skills to produce an effect that is guaranteed to leave the reader spell – bound! 
The pace at which the book is written is truly excellent, as well as the writing style. The brain is naturally attracted by secret societies and such, and Brown has used them well. No arguments on that score. The book flows through from the first page to the last quite effortlessly, with nary a slack period in between. It is unputdownable from the first page to the last. The characterisation is good, but not quite of the calibre that is expected from a class author. This is particularly evident in the way the characters of Langdon and Bezu fache {note that point: more later} 
But the real differrence is felt when you read Angels and Demons… {note that point: more later} 
The book is certainly worth a read- but my advice to readers would be to read it again after a gap of a few days. It is only then that the flaws begin to hit you with telling force… Those who have not read it, please do not read beyond this point. The story has not been revealed, but I do not want to prejudice you… 
THE ARGUMENT 
I have said earlier that the book will leave you spell – bound. Well, it did me too. I read it once, then a second time and then a third… and started questioning. So much so that I read Holy Blood, Holy Grail as well as The Templar Revelation. The one good thing was that I learnt one hell of a lot regarding European history as a result! I have singled out a few points above, and let me elucidate upon my hints further: 
1) The major flaw in the story that few people have noticed is this one.  The pace of the book rests on the fact that the protagonists have to run from the good as well as the bad guys. But, why should the good guys suspect Robert / Sophie? Just because of the line “find Robert Langdon?” If Sauniere had to write the name of the murderer, why coudn’t he have just penned Robert Langdon Killed Me??? The very fact that he had written a cryptic message {the Vitruvian Man clue} in french + art should have guided the police towards some much deeper facts! 
2) The basis of the book is upon 2 fundamentals : the hunt for the holy grail / The Lord Jesus Christ, and the use of  world – famous art objects {The Vitruvian Man, The Last Supper, The Mona Lisa, The Madonna of the Rocks etc} and the famous name of Leonardo de Vinci. the combination of the 2 was a guarantee for commercial success. Such is the implication on the brain when 2 long-held and deep beliefs are questioned in a sensational manner, that the flaws remain hidden; the flaws dont register on the mind. 
Is the author justified in using our beliefs to his own advantage? I do not think so, although I sure that the opinion on this one will 50 – 50. We are talking about a venerated historical figure The Son of God here,; someone who gave his life for his people. Call me old-fashioned, but somehow I dont quite like the idea. (Yes, despite that I did read the book… human nature???? Or…????) My only thought: what would be our reaction if someone came out with a similar sensational fictional work on our cultural past? (Amish Tripathi? I did not read him…  I had this experience behind me; I made the judgement call on that…)
3) The character of Robert Langdon in this book comes across as different than the one in Angels and Demons. It is almost as if we are dealing with 2 different people. Logically, a person who has had a similar experience would adjust faster to circumstances. Secondly, the basic nature of a person does not change. You cant have the same person showing radically different behaviour under a similar set of circumstances. This is a tenet that has been laid out in many an psychological theory. He is constantly amazed by the revelations in the code- and he is a world – renowned scientist! The two facts do not gel together 
Overall, the book comes across as only a work of sensationalism of an average quality. The saviour of the book is the pace – relentless and fast. The plot, despite its many shortcomings, full of twists and turns. However, the net feeling is that the theme was not as well developed as well as it could have been done… 
All in all, read the book by all means – but keep in mind that it is only fiction
Disclaimer: This review first appeared on http://www.mouthshut.com/review/Da-Vinci-Code-The-Dan-Brown-review-ppmtpoupom; It was written by myself some 4-5 years ago.