|Submitted by sammychanda |
(Jul 08, 2005)
If anyone genuinely want a side splitting humour and also enjoy an intellectually stimulating book over the weekend read Samit Basu's The Simoqin Prophecies. It has been quite sometime that I have come across a book that consists such unadulterated fun elements.It is one of the best spoofs I have read.
Imagine Lord of the Rings meet Ramayana meet Tarzan meet James Bond meet Mahabharata meet Harry Potter meet Bollywood!The concoction is what Samit has come up with.The book has side splitting humour and some very funny passages.It is full of allusions like Draupadi's Swayambara where, for a change,Arjun aka modern day Rabin hood elope the princess with the help of outsiders . Or, take for instance,the Ahalya Uddhar episode of Ramayana or Jatayu following Ravana after abduction of Sita.The incidents are of course a spoof of the real stories but so cleverly crafted and masked that you identify the allusions yet read on because of the sheer force of the story.There is a wonderful cameo role of all powerful Bollywood director Badshah aka Mantric who lives in the island of Bolvudis and make Muwi-visions. He is the most powerful person in the kingdom with magical powers greater than anyone.This can well allude to the present day Bollywood directors who can create anything on screen to charm the viewers.Then there is Asvin who is being groomed up as a Hero and there is the eternal confrontation between good and evil. There are two schools: Hero school and the University of Enki modelled on the B schools and the modern day academic institutions.There are references to the political confrontations,the various political alliances that is so prevalent in today's world.I almost thought the city of KOL might refer to US though the name very much allude to Kolkata. Then there are denizens of different spheres like danavs, asurs, rakshas, vamans etc. which refer to the various inhabitants of this earth who co-exist for the sake of maintaining economic and political balance.
By the way, if you want to split your sides laughing, read the funny incident of the abduction of princess during her Swayambara and you'll just wonder when you have last read such wonderful spoof. And the peculiar quest of prince Asvin to slay the rakshashi Akrat in the Shanta -van is so funny even a frowning face would burst out laughing. The names chosen for the characters are hilarious.....funny to the bones.I can't think when someone has last created something as hilarious as a Kingdom of Potolpur where there are three princes named Chorpulish, Kumirdanga and Lukochuri? And the names of characters like Narak, Danh-Gem, Silver Dagger, Minty Python, Gaam Vatpo, Bali the Vanar Lord, Maya, the spellbinder and Rabinhood is superb.Check out Mr. Silver Dagger who is a prototype of James Bond who visits pubs like Fragrant Underbelly and comes out with corny dialogues like "I want my dragonjuice shaken not stirred".
The whole story revolves round a simple theme of the rise of a demon, the dark force and creating a Hero to fight against the evil forces.This storyline is expanded into a superb plot just as they do in Bollywood with so many twists and turns and sub plots on the way to climax. And the end is a hilarious anti climax of the plot.It is a total laugh riot.But a serious reader of the fantasy fiction genre will be able to deduce so many critical points and allusions from it.
Overall, just read The Simoqin Prophecies to check out how well written a spoof can be. Samit here is one to you! Hope the sequel to this one will be out soon and you'll let us in for some more genuine laughter.
|Submitted by Aditya Bidikar |
(Jan 29, 2005)
At first glance, this book is highly suspicious. In fact, if I'd found it in a bookstore rather than in the library, I don't think I would've bought it. As it was, I borrowed it with a lot of trepidation. The blurb, for example, makes no mention of either originality or imagination, both of which I hold in high regard. Instead, it cites the references, ranging from Monty Python to 'The Ramayana' to 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'The Lord of the Rings'. And my usual philosophy is never to trust a book which declares it is 'in the tradition of' or 'XX (a famous book or author) meets XY (another famous book or author)' or something like it. And the author is 23. Also, at the very beginning, when you're starting to read, the author seems more of a fan-boy than an author (he is actually a rather interesting mixture). In fact, I only took it because I want Indian literature to be read all over the world, and I wanted to see how it was coming along. But I recommend that you put your inhibitions aside and read the book. Fantasy isn't a very original field these days anyway, and one more unoriginal but extremely fun book isn't to the detriment of your collection.
In the very beginning, as I said, it is rather clichéd, and at one point I didn't want to read further. Not because I was bored, but because I thought there'd be nothing there. I was wrong. After the book gets in its stride, it actually gives you some rather interesting and innovative ideas, while still remaining in the range of normal heroic fantasy. I finished in two sittings, in fact.
The characters are also well-done, but the only truly interesting characters are Maya (the 'token' heroine) and Amloki (the guide). Maya is the usual 'feminist' woman like in many modern stories (that is, propounding women's superiority without being either generic as usually portrayed by men [screechy and lesbian] or sexless), but she's interesting nonetheless, because she at least seems genuine. Amloki is the typical guide, but lurking in the background, and doing good that way. And his ending is very good, if predictable (in fact it's better because it's predictable). Aswin is very generic, and Basu knows it, which is why he doesn't actually waste much time with him. Kirin is more interesting, but his ending is nothing new, and you could predict it miles off (although there is a little twist there that one might not even notice).
But those are small complaints, because the world created here has been extremely well-realised. Much more so, in fact, than most modern fantasies. The blend of Indian mythologies and Western legends is interesting, but the Indian references might not be obvious to Westerners. But they are very good, actually, drawing equally on more well-known stories and slightly more obscure myths. He also changes them sufficiently to avoid annoying you. Bali setting fire to the city with his tail, for example, is very well-realised, and there are other, slightly more subtle, references throughout.
But the main advantage of this book is that it is filled with many small stories and sub-plots, so that if you don't like one angle, there is always another. And the writing style is also very fluid, and the book has obviously been really worked upon. And this also goes to proves my theory that clichés, when done well, can be wholly interesting.
The comedy is much rarer than you might expect, but the gags which are there are usually pretty good; mostly generic, but sometimes very innovative. I especially like the fight in the bar, and the names of the new superheroes (Minty Python is particularly fine). And the gag about the computer-game players is very amusing, and I narrated it to my geek friends, who loved it. But overall, I would've liked the book to be a little funnier, although it's quite good as it is.
The plotting is actually not so much of an achievement (at least to someone who's read 'The Lord of the Rings' and, well, who hasn't), and the system has been the usual - plan the beginning and the end, and work towards the middle a little. Then write the middle, and work sideways and towards the middle. But it is actually quite good, and a surprising lot of story has been filled into the 500-odd pages.
I recommend that Basu should read more unconventional fantasies, and should pay special attention to Michael Moorcock (a little influence of 'The Tale of the Eternal Champion' would improve his writing phenomenally, in my opinion), Harlan Ellison and Terry Pratchett. And as I said, he's a little of a fan-boy, which means that his writing has a reverential quality towards fantasy that I, for one, dislike. A more sardonic style would be very effective.
There is going to be a sequel to the book, because the story isn't actually complete at all - it's just started. I don't know if this book has become successful or not, but if it has (as it should), I only hope that the success does not go to Basu's head, and, hopefully, he'll deliver a worthy sequel. And this sequel might actually be better (though it probably won't be as funny), because even here he gets better and better as he goes along (which is towards the middle). Here, he is predictable, and he might do well to improve on that aspect. And he's 23. In a few years, he'll most certainly become a force to reckon with. Hopefully.
Anyway, I'm waiting for the sequel. Almost as eagerly, in fact, as I waited for the third Lord of the Rings film. And that is a lot.
I wish him good luck.
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