YA

2035 by Shruti Jain and Nilutpal Gohain

2035 by Shruti Jain and Nilutpal Gohain

Review by Shwetha H S

Title: 2035
Author: Shruti Jain and Nilutpal Gohain
ISBN: 9781661616434
Imprint: Half Baked Beans
Genre: Fiction, Dystopia, Young Adult, Sci-Fi, Thriller

2035 is the first full-fledged novel by Shruti Jain and Nilutpal Gohain, who went on to write distinctive individual works.

2035 is a science fiction, dystopian novel, very near to reality even now. It is fast-paced. No dragging narration anywhere. One can find many personally relatable points. To me, Rhea binging on Kaju Katli is extremely relatable as it is my favourite! Her need for half an hour to reboot after waking up in the morning reminds me of my friend, but she needs almost an hour. There is an Alexa of the future – Alie, Slurpp for Zomato, Nile for Amazon, Toggle for Google, TPay for GPay, and Slambook for Facebook. I love the idea of how Nile forces us to buy something, at least to exit the shop. The whole story is very gripping, an edge-of-the-seat dystopian thriller with good covering of any loopholes that can occur until the climax. But the ending seemed out of place. Since it is an AI, still in progress, maybe just the instructions were enough to put the doomsday on hold. What I could not comprehend is why would the AI accept instructions from a newborn baby, Ayang, whose Toggle id Siddhanth was using. Maybe by then Toggle Id had understood that Ayang is not a newborn, as Jaydeb had informed. But if Toggle’s AI was so invasive that it could understand Siddhanth was not a newborn that he was posing to be, and constant data transmission was happening from Siddhanth to the AI to create VR for him, then the AI would also have seen his past. It could have easily judged that Siddhanth was declared dead years ago.

2035 is a good sci-fi read. One of the few good ones written in this genre.

Jungle Nama by Amitav Ghosh

Jungle Nama by Amitav Ghosh and Illustrated by Salman Toor

Review by Shwetha H S

Title: Jungle Nama
Author: Amitav Ghosh
Imprint: Fourth Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 9789353379128
Genre: Mythology, Illustrated, Children, YA, Adults

If you are into reading books, then you would have probably heard of Amitav Ghosh. He is a prominent name in the Indian literary circles and is also a recipient of Jnanpith Award. I always stayed away from mainstream books. Amitav Ghosh’s books seemed so mainstream, I never thought of reading his works. But while browsing through a bookshop in Leh, Ladakh, a book cover caught my attention. It was Amitav Ghosh’s Jungle Nama. As you must have guessed, I bought that book to enter the world of one of the greatest Indian literary celebrities.

Jungle Nama is based on one of the chapters of The Legend of Bon Bibi. It is written in the form of poetry. This is a story of morals with a link to local mythology, anchored in reality, for both kids and adults alike. Particularly this story talks about greed – how a wealthy merchant makes a pact with a regional deity or a demigod, Dokkhin Rai, who often shape-shifts into a Royal Bengal Tiger and is restricted to the areas of Sunderbans, to leave his relative as food in exchange for honey and wax, but are punished by Bon Bibi and her twin brother Shah Jongoli.

I found it good to read Jungle Nama aloud. There are quite a few Bengali/Bangla words, so it is better to read in the same accent, for fun as well as it gives a sense of relevance. There are a few moderately difficult words used in the book, which make a good addition to the readers’ English vocabulary. Most of all, the Afterword of this book is as precious as the story. The last time I was so mesmerised by someone’s writing was while reading Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie. There was no need for a bookmark while reading Jungle Nama as I finished reading it in one go! I thoroughly enjoyed the book and am no longer skeptical about reading a mainstream Amitav Ghosh’s book. While the writing is great, the illustrations aren’t so. Although the last few pages of the book praise the illustrations by Salman Toor, I thought they could have helped glorify the story better, especially because this is based on mythology. Nevertheless, I definitely recommend reading Jungle Nama.

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

Review by Shwetha H S

Title: Fortunately, The Milk
Author: Neil Gaiman
Imprint: Bloomsbury Publishing
ISBN: 9781408873021
Genre: Fiction, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Children, Young Adults

Neil Gaiman is not new to people already submerged in the literary world. But, for those who don’t know, let me quote The Times from the back cover of this book, Fortunately, The Milk: “Gaiman is the nearest thing children’s books have to a rock star. If you enjoy fantasy, he is irresistible.” Well, he is not limited to children’s books. Go on, explore his world. Many of his books are with illustrations by Chris Riddell. If Gaiman’s words spark the reader’s imagination, Riddell’s illustrations bring the imagination to life.

A mother goes to a conference leaving the father in-charge of their two children; a son, the eldest and a daughter, the youngest. They trio are fine on day one. The next day, there is no milk to have a decent breakfast. Off the father goes to buy milk. The children wait and wait and wait. When the father comes back and is questioned about the delay, he tells his children how he got caught up in time-travel and went back and forth to the past and the future with pirates, dinosaurs, tribals, a demi-god, precious stones, unicorns, vampires, dwarfs, aliens and, of course, a carton of milk that he bought. What is this new breakfast recipe instead of milk with Toasties? Do the children believe their father? It is for you to find out by reading the book.

I finished reading Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman in one go because I couldn’t put it down. As the Observer has made an observation and quoted, it is truly an entertaining story for adults and children alike. Chris Riddell’s illustrations are an added bonus. Anybody can pick it up to read and nobody would be disappointed.

Loose Strings by Dr. Dale A Grove

Loose Strings by Dr. Dale A Grove

Review by Shwetha H S

What would have happened if many of our eminent scientists had not died or deviated from their scientific aims in their lives? Humanity would have technologically developed, but not sure for good or bad. In another universe, a world called Regnus is highly developed, so developed that its citizens are at the dead end of any kind of technological development because they have exhausted themselves in every possibility. To stay as the most developed world of theirs as well as neighbouring universes, the History Security Officers are assigned the tasks of distracting scientists of different worlds and hindering them from reaching their goals. On one such mission, Regnus’ History Security Officer Rakena meets Dr. Wolfe Sterling, who is trying to save science on Earth. What happens to the history science on Earth? Does Rakena succeed in altering Earth’s scientific history? Will Dr. Wolfe Sterling resist the alien beauty’s ventures?

Loose Strings has a good storyline with multiple time travelling and travelling between universes, complex ideas of physics which you don’t need to understand in depth to enjoy the story. Since all the characters are humans and similar to humans, the reader doesn’t have to think about the complexities of the alien anatomy. But the problem is there are so many characters; even the supporting characters have their own supporting characters and storylines. The story is fast paced, but there are times when there are abrupt shifts from one scene to another, or a character doing something which wasn’t actually necessary or called for. But the only point that becomes difficult to accept is the element of God in the Sci-Fi novel. It almost becomes like preaching Christianity to the readers with the help of aliens. Dr. Dale A Grove lets the readers down when he starts talking about God.

Except for the God part, the novel must be for its unique time travel and multiverse travel story. Sci-Fi lovers will enjoy this if they ignore the sudden inclusion of the Almighty.

The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David Meredith

The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David Meredith

Review by Shwetha H S

It has been years since Prince Charming rescued Princess Snow White. Don’t you want to know what she has been up to? David Meredith tells you what our naive princess has been up to in her happily ever after in a life after marrying Prince Charming in this story based on the fairy tale by Grimm brothers. Hang in there because this is not just a mere extension of a fairy tale.

Snow White is not a princess anymore. She is a queen now. With her husband, King Charming dead and her daughter Raven’s wedding nearing, Queen Snow White is indifferent to everything is lost without her loving husband. In a bid to get out of the depression, the Queen decides to take a stroll in her own castle and absentmindedly ends up in her tormenting but dead stepmother Lady Arglist’s chamber. There she finds the famed Mirror on the Wall. Contrary to the popular belief, or our understanding from the original Snow White tale, the mirror is not an ally of the villain and is just a reflector of truth.

The mirror shows and tells Snow White what she has been denying for all those years and tries to make her see the light. It makes Snow White realise when and why she actually started hating her stepmother, the strength she had to brace against Lady Arglist’s abuses, the helpless determination to escape from her tormentor, how she was saved by her dwarves and her prince, how her husband made a lady out of a girl, how her husband helped her in the matters of court, how she had found the long lost courage to stand for herself in the absence of her husband against usurpers, love and devotion of her husband displayed vividly on the verge of her death and escape from it, and love and admiration of her Raven proven when King Charming dies unexpectedly. Through all this, the mirror makes Queen Snow White understand that she and her husband lived wonderful years together, she was perfectly capable of taking care of herself, her daughter and her kingdom, and she was no more and damsel in distress.

Through this story based on a fairy tale, the author David Meredith conveys the message that girls should stop acting damsel in distress and waiting for their Prince Charming, and instead should stand tall and charm their way to their life goals. This is a story worth reading because it tells you what happens after the mythical “happily-ever-after” and even Snow White had a life like us.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Review by Shwetha H S

You don’t have to go looking for trouble. Trouble will come looking for you. This is an idea I got of those times when it wasn’t enough to just mind your own business. Young lad Jim Hawkins falls into an adventure that every boy dreams about when Billy Bones walks into Admiral Benbow, an inn run by the Mr. And Mrs. Hawkins. Trouble in the form of weird people come looking for Billy Bones and poor Jim gets unknowingly drawn into the whirlpool that spits him into the sea along with Dr David Livesey a man of principles, Squire John Trelawney a good shot for a tell-tale, Captain Smollett who speaks his mind, Long John Silver an ever-changing sea-cook and many other sailors on the Hispaniola. I can tell you this much of why they all go on that ship. They go sailing to the Treasure Island looking for the seven thousand pounds of gold hidden by Captain Flint. What happens next that Jim Hawkins and Dr David Livesey will tell you in this gripping story.

Except about the language of the sailors, I can’t bring myself to complain about anything else. But if the sailors too spoke just like other men of land, then it wouldn’t be much fun, would it? I can’t even complain about too many characters here as they were required to work on the Hispaniola. Not only humans, you get a talking parrot that’s named after the formidable Captain Flint. Some plot twists are expected and awaited, but some make you say “what did just happen?” Thanks to Robert Louis Stevenson for telling this marvellous adrenaline-filled story over and over to past generations and still ready to do the same for the coming generations. Your Treasure Island is a treasure as a whole and has aged just like a good wine; will never be old for the new.