The legend of Siva would be fertile ground for authors to adapt from and weave magical tales of adventure from. But only for the talented and hard-working. This book reflects neither talent nor hard work. The fascinating premise remains just that.
What if the legend of Siva, the destroyer of evil, was not a legend, but something that began with an actual human; that acquired the proportions of legend and finally myth over the course of centuries and millenia, because of the astounding feats of that single person?
Unfortunately, this novel is not a fruition of that premise. There are several, several problems with this novel. The simplistic plot, over-simplistic I would call it, for one. It stumbles forward in a linear manner without any surprises or twists that you cannot pick out from a mile away. The narration. The dialog between the characters is evocative of a television soap-opera, at best. Siva is not the yogi in control of his senses; he is some post-adolescent youth in search for adventure.
'I have seen the bed, dammit!' grinned Shiva. 'Now I want to experience it. Get out!'
Yes, some sort of a grotesque cross between a Karan Johar and Ekta Kapoor movie's dialogues.
Some of the descriptions of Meluhan society (the Suryavanshis, the people inhabiting the Saraswati river basin) are terrifyingly reminiscent more of Soviet-style totalitarian regimes than a caring, humane society. Children are deposited after child-birth at some grand orphanage, called a Gurukul; mothers made to forcibly abandon their children a few weeks after childbirth, and then doled out to wanna-be parents on the basis of a lottery?! Seriously, such hair-brained and frankly inhuman concepts have never been part of Indian society and culture, ever! Why, they have not been part of any society in human history, ever, anywhere, I should think. Yet, this is presented as a stroke of genius that does away with the evils of the caste system. Without an understanding of the caste system, its utility, or lack thereof, in a society at a given point in time, whatever that may have been, the author takes it upon himself to purge society of this evil with another evil; only this time the replacement is infinitely more evil and inhuman than the system it seeks to replace.
The descriptions of the Indus Valley and Saraswati Harappan civilization dwellings are barely beyond what one would conjure up after spending 15 minutes on Wikipedia. Even here there was so much promise that remains exasperatingly unfulfilled.
Siva is yogeswar. His detachment from the physical world is the complement to the material world signified by Vishnu. Yet Siva in this book comes off as some lost, confused soul, in search of a Bollywood movie plot where he can journey to some exotic country and find himself. Which in itself the anti-thesis of Hindu Vedic philosophy, which states that what is within is also without. You are that. Not here, evidently. The other side of the Suryavanshi Meluhans, the Chandravanshis, and their capital Ayodhya, ends up being drawn with a very simple and very crude palette. It is a crude caricature of a ghetto. The author tries to portray the two societies as opposite sides of the same coin, but fails, pretty much as in every other place of the novel.
I really, really wanted to like this book. I kept persevering; 50 pages, 100 pages, waiting for the plot and pace to pick, the narrative to improve. But it didn't. To make sure I was doing justice to the author, I did read to the very last page, which ends up with a contrived follow-up to the trilogy. I refuse to bite.
Sorry, this book does not even flatter to deceive. I can only suppose that the success of this book is perhaps more the result of smart marketing than anything substantial. I can only thank myself that the price of reading this book was a couple of hours of time, that I shall however never get back, and twenty-five rupees in rental, that I don't mind as much.
As a friend remarked, the best and the really good and intelligent part of the book is its cover.
You can read Chapter 1 (PDF) of the novel from its website, [...]
A very interesting concept: Shiva as a mere mortal helping to destroy 'evil'. The more interesting struggle at heart is knowing what evil means. A very tightly knit plot. The book makes an interesting read.
But language and style are what differentiates a novel to an epic. I believe, if put right, the story had the potential to be an epic. I found some shortcomings
- Unnecessary contemporary humor - Example: Ayurvati asks Shiva "Are you free". He says "For now, but may have to charge you later"
- Contemporary slang - Somehow it is not possible for me to imagine a person from 1900 BC using those slangs
- The urge to explain everything - JRR Tolkien never attempts or pains himself with trying to explain how Orcs are created. Nor does JK Rowling try to explain what exactly does a death eater do. Some things are better unexplained. The painstaking illustrations of how somras (read: antioxidants) works or how a Trishul was formed, tend to distract you from the story itself.
This book was very disappointing.
While its nice to see that the fantasy genre is finally being tackled by Indian authors, this is a very disappointing read, especially because of the excessive hype. The author is unable to write good, simple prose, let alone a masterpiece. The language turns you off at every corner, and it's difficult to get lost in the story.
For a story that was called the LotR of India by some critics, it appears that those comparing reviewers have not read Tolkien at all. Tolkien spent 40+ years on Middle-earth, developed 7 Elvish Languages, and created a genre. Since this book borrows most of its mythology from Hindu mythology, it could be expected that perhaps a book written in such a short time could still be a fulfilling read, but it fails miserably.
The concept was interesting, finding a human origin of mythologies. But the humans in this story are far from normal humans. The society created seems a perfect society. The author tries to backport modern science and medicine to historical eras creating an extremely unbelievable environment. The humans in the story are pure with one-dimensional and noble intentions, which makes it look terrifyingly inhuman and creepy. If the author wanted to say that gods came out of humans, he just sort of says that gods came from a society of gods, the only similarity with real-life humans beings is flesh and blood and not emotional turbulence.
The author seems very confused about his real-life beliefs and his spiritual confusion about gods prevents him from making believable fiction as well. He seems to believe that atheism was just a western concept(and hence he dismisses it as unworthy of consideration), when it has been acknowledged even within Hinduism for several thousand years. (ref:[see Atheism in Hinduism Wikipedia page]). Then he implies that atheism allowed westerners to laugh at Hindus, and that the laughter was justified, and that the only redeeming route for Hindus to take for replying to westerners is to find real-life humans who 'became' gods (and he almost literally seems to believe in the concept of 'becoming' God, not just about achieving greatness). The author tries to grasp complex philosophies developed over years, and fails in understanding any of it. I am terrified about the possibility that at least a small part of his created fiction, the author actually finds plausible in real life and believes as real.
To all readers wanting to read this book, I encourage them to read fantasy classics first. These include LotR, Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien, A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R Martin, The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, the Malazan series by Steven Erikson, works by Brandon Sanderson, and so many other good authors. All these authors have devoted their lives to fantasy and have created extremely complex, detailed worlds with fantastic story arcs, and fantastic prose, with very complex mythologies, which developed new languages, and genres. They are usually classified as epic fantasy, and not mythological fantasy, and I would like to see future books based on Indian mythology that hold their own against classics.
The book is definitely more enjoyable if you have not been introduced to these classics before, but once you start reading these classics, you feel sorry for Indian fantasy if this is our idea of great fantasy work.
This amazon edition also seems available only in India. Reluctance to be reviewed by foreign critics?
This is the first book of a trilogy the author has embarked upon to tell the story of the Hindu God Shiva in the form of a novel, based on his research on both myth and history. The writing is mostly ordinary as far as the language is concerned and even tedious at times. It is slow-paced for almost 80% of the way. In the final chapters though, I found that the author makes some interesting observations which makes one think of some parallels with the contemporary world and a philosophy to grapple with it.
The plot of the story is based on the author's premise that the Aryan invasion theory of India around 1500 BC is all just hogwash. Instead, the author postulates that what we know today as the Indus valley civilization was established around the 4th millennium BC and was a 'perfect' kingdom ruled by Lord Ram. This is what is known in the collective consciousness of Indians as Ram Rajya, the ideal society. The story takes off from this premise as follows:
In 1900 BC, there existed the land called Meluha (what is the land today between western India and Afghanistan) where the Suryavanshis ruled according to the principles enunciated by Lord Ram. Their society was very advanced on the material and scientific fronts. But they were facing constant attacks and threats from Swadweep to the east, the land of the vastly more numerous Chandravanshis, who were less advanced, chaotic and materially poorer. The Chandravanshis also allied themselves with the Nagas, a race blessed with great martial skills.
Enter Shiva, a tribal Tibetan immigrant into Meluha where he is seen as the savior, the Lord Neelkanth. Shiva himself is not fully convinced about the Chandravanshis being evil as observed by the Suryavanshis, who want him to help them destroy the Chandravanshis. The first part of this trilogy deals with Shiva's dilemma whether he should play the savior or not.
What interested me most about the book was a larger contemporary message towards the end of the book. The author seems to draw parallels between the Suryavanshis and the modern western world. The Meluhans (Suryavanshis) are affluent, scientifically advanced, have a high standard of living, very organized, scrupulously respecting their own laws, rules and codes and also numerically small in terms of population. On the other hand, the Chandravanshis seem to parallel the developing countries in that they are numerous in number, chaotic as a society, poorer and somewhat lawless. In the war that ensues between them, the Meluhans want to bring 'their superior way of life' as a gift to Swadweep, as the land of the Chandravanshis is called. This has all the hallmarks of the West wanting to bring Democracy, gender equality etc to Iraq and Afghanistan. The author makes some poignant observations in the final chapter in the form of a discussion between Shiva and a Pandit.
The Pandit says, " ...it is not that the Chandravanshis are evil as the Suryavanshis think. They are just different. Being different isn't evil. Philosophically, both of them just represent two balancing life forces, a duality if you will. It is one of the many possible perspectives of the universe. The Meluhans are the masculine and the Swadweepans are the feminine. The life forces they embody will always remain forever. There is no way either can be destroyed because their destruction will mean the implosion of the universe."
When I started reading the novel, I wondered whether the author is one of those Hindu nationalists and whether this novel is an attempt to push their sectarian agenda. But those fears are unfounded as a further reading of the book shows the expansive and inclusive outlook of the author. Still, I am not sure if I would buy the remaining parts of the Trilogy and complete the 'legend of Shiva'. This book hasn't made me wait with bated breath for the next one in line.
very good story, very bad naration
good combination of fiction and mythology but was not tempting enough to turn the pages, boring at some places, didnt enjoy visualizing the action scenes, please take some help from good fiction writers for your following parts, you have a good story in your hands dont kill it like this.
The novel is the flight of fancy of a Brahmin. It is not a criticism of the caste system rather an endorsement of it. The imagination is childish. It seems that the writer has grown on the mythical stories of the golden age of India where Brahmins held the power in their hands. At times the writer seems to gibe at Pakistani terrorists by calling them chandaravanshi terrorists. And who are Nagas? It can be anybody's guess. It is not great literature. But the writer reads the pulse of the superstitious Indians and is thriving on it.
I don't understand why this book became such a big hit. The only reason that comes to mind is that it blends mythology and fiction. As a story - there is hardly any character development. The prose is what a 10 year old school student would write.
Its a very simple read and I think that gets mistaken for the book to be gripping. It's actually quite boring. The whole book is written with the idea that it can be converted into a movie.
I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone. Your weekend is precious. Spend it on something more exciting.
Bought this book in the airport with little knowledge of the story line or the author. This was in the best sellers category. Since I am fan of hindu mythology and this book promises a different treatment of the same, gave it a shot. While the story line is great, I am very disappointed at the writing, which at times seems very amateurish. Mixing history with fiction is difficult. Lot of research has to be done. While the author sure did his research, there are factual inaccuracies throughout the book. As a fiction, this is OK. When the author claims he has mixed history with fiction, the only history seems to the names of people and places. :(
This can be a good read, purely based on the story but if you are a purist, prepare to be disappointed.
I picked up this book expecting a mixture of Indian mythological stories and "fiction" to fill in the gaps - after all, the author has picked up Indian mythological characters which do have a history. What I found was an outrageous stretching of the stories to the point that the only "fact" in the book is the names of characters - everything else is cheesey, badly written stuff that has no bearing to Indian mythology. An Indian would catch on to this at once, but others please be warned - this by no means represents the stories in Indian mythology! I don't know how the author has the license to take our Hindu Gods and create these silly stories around them - somras, blue throats, Maika - ugh!