Thursday, January 26, 2006

The “first Indian SFF genre novel” and others

I read two new books this week – Kleptomania by Manjula Padmanabhan and The Simoqin Prophecies by Samit Basu. The first is a collection of short stories – 3 of them science fiction. The second is what has been touted (by some, atleast) as the ‘first Indian sff genre novel in English’. I just finished the Prophecies – and it’s left me with a feeling of incompleteness.

A few weeks back I was at a weekend get together of old college mates in Bangalore. While talking about books in general one of said something like ‘hey have you read that Indian science fiction writer? Sumit…Sumit Basu I think his name is’. I hadn’t heard of any such writer, I said, and the matter dropped there. After getting back to Hyderabad, some googling turned up a lot of references – it’s Samit Basu, and The Simoqin Prophecies was published in 2004 (Penguin India). He is pretty well known by now, and my first taste of his writing was The Plasmoids.

After some hunting in Walden and Odyssey I got hold of the Prophecies. Normally I shy away from works of fantasy and works leaning towards fantasy – but I decided to give this a try. The blurb on the back cover was too cliched, though.

Maybe I’ve lost my bias or maybe the book is really good, but I finished it. And I like it and dislike it at the same time. I dislike it because the influences from Harry Potter are a bit too obvious and so is some of the other borrowed stuff.
I like it because I admire the author’s imaginative power of conjuring up the world where the action takes place, the easy, fast paced, no nonsense style of writing, and the humour. I like the (well) disguised parallel Earth, the city-state of Kol, which is based on Kolkata to a great extent (including Chinatown!!), the references which make you want to find out more about this world he’s thought up.

I mentioned at the beginning that it’s left me with a feeling of incompleteness – well, that’s why I’m hunting for the sequel right now :).

Samit Basu’s blog is at

The Frankfurt book sale is still going on in Hyderabad – last time I picked up Humans (Robert J Sawyer), some anthologies, some Pohls, Shadows’ End (Sherri S. Tepper) and a 1968 hardbound edition of 2001.