Thursday, November 20, 2014

Book Review : The Mahabharata Quest : The Alexander Secret by Christopher C. Doyle

Author: Christopher C. Doyle
ISBN-13: 9789384030599
Binding: Paperback
Publisher: Westland Publications
Number of pages: 308
Genre: Fiction
Language: English
Price: Rs.295 (Got a review copy from

About the Book

In 334 B.C., the young Alexander has already conquered most of the known world. He turns his gaze towards Hindustan, the land of the Indus. There, he seeks a secret buried in the Mahabharata, one that will grant him the powers of a god. In the present day, a tomb is uncovered in Greece, one that has been buried in secrets for over 2000 years. It hides the body of a queen. In New Delhi, the discovery of strange and unexplained corpses in a hidden lab leads Vijay Singh and his team, members of an elite task force, in a hunt for a deadly adversary. Their only clues lie hidden in the Mahabharata, and when they decipher them, they will discover the truth many people have sought for eons. In this journey, they face an ancient enemy who will yet hold the world for ransom with his diabolical plan for total domination.

About the Author

Christopher C. Doyle is a historical fiction writer. A graduate of St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, he studied business management at IIM Calcutta. He is currently based in Gurgaon where he lives with his family.

This book follows The Mahabharata Secret
 Gaurav Says

As we were growing up and drooling in our sleep during history classes, the teacher possibly leafed through the chapter of Alexander the Third, without being aware about most of his conquest. The teacher must have humored Alexander when he considered himself to be a God. Little did you know that the humor was about to get real. Little did you know that Alexander went for a quest to the end of the world, just to emerge out victorious and coveted with the powers of a greater and mightier sentient. 
Christopher C. Doyle’s latest release, The Mahabharata Quest: The Alexander Secret turned my boorish history classes ‘downside up’ as I travel into past to know about the extent to which Alexander went, after conquering Persia, to attain immortality. His most trusted historian Callisthenes (sounds familiar?) accompanies him in this quest. Alexander eventually shakes hands with the secret that made him a living God. His journey brought back gleeful insights of one retrovirus and bacterium, which holds the key to reduce ageing and provide a guard against most known diseases.
Although the myth of his journey is a loosely woven, the science that supports it totally rules out any ambiguity. It is this science that begins, quiet a perilous journey of secret law syndicates, trying to grab the secret of Alexander’s quest. Once the secrets are in their hands, they could literally hold the Panacea of medicine. However, instead of spreading them for free, they would like to dominate word politics and become the ultimate masters. (Something that a reputed drug brand recently tried to do by not making cancer drugs cheaper ). But hey, back to the science fiction story now!
So it all starts around 323 B.C. when one of Greek’s favorite tragic hero, Eumenes, contemplates in his prison how he has swiftly concealed Alexander’s secret from the hands of Plutarch and Antigonuus. His execution is followed by the first appearance of a secret covenant-The Order-who receives a vellum that maps the way to Alexander’s quest. Cut scene and we come down to an anxious looking Mike Ashford who received a secret papyri and two journals, which was followed by a life threat by unknown people who are privy to every detail of Ashford’s discovery (talk about crappy days). If that’s not all, Mike’s co-archaeologists are either dead or missing. Mike’s not sure what’s in store for him. But he made sure that he dutifully send a copy down to one of old colleague, back to downtown India, Delhi.
Alice, an ambitious Greek-American (and a blonde, but don’t let that fool you!) archaeologists lays perplexed as she sees the dead body of an young chap Marco, lying in front of her eyes. She has been chased by two hitmen, working for ‘The Order’. Why? Because she’s carrying an ivory cube that bears Sanskrit inscriptions that clues the way to Alexander’s secret. She found the cube in Olympias’ tomb in Pydna. (Olympias was Alexander’s mom btw). Aided by Kurt Wallace, (who funded her research), she made her way into her ex-boyfriends heavily guided fort, Vijay who’s currently engaged to a nuclear physicist, Radha. Doyle brings the ‘it’s complicated’ tension between these three characters. However, Vijay’s friend Colin always cracks a joke or two, to lighten up things.
We fly back to India where Imran, an IB official receives an email from one childhood friend Anwar, asking for immediate help. He traces the address to a medical institute (which ironically is owned by Wallace), just to find it in ruins. On further investigations, he finds out human guinea pigs, being experimented upon in the basement. And guess what? Imran brings in the C.I.A. into the game. From then on, a game of cat and mouse ensues. The cat being the I.B.- C.I.A nexus, trying to bring down the mouse, ‘The Order’. People dies, Imran gets bazooka-d (that’s right!) and merciless killers emerge to bring back the cube from Alice.
Among these merciless killers, Peter and Riley are perhaps my favorite. Peter is like Imagining Liam Neeson with ‘particular set of skills’ acquired over a long career of shooting targets down from great distances with acute proficiency. He’s especially good with moving targets (that fox may finally have Road Runner killed). Riley is more like a combination of Christopher Walken’s intimidating look and Danny Trejo’s fascination of killing people with bare hands. These two are two badass assassins, who always attract the Godfather-styled scenarios, from which there are never any survivors.
Dull moments are virtually invisible when it comes to this sequel of the Mahabharata Quest. The narration keeps you riveted. Although some portions of the narrative might be reminiscent of Robert Langdon’s misadventures from ‘Da Vinci Code’. However, if you cut to the brass-tacks, Alexander’s Secret is as engrossing as any other books on adventures. In fact, it keeps you grounded to the core of the quest to the Fountain of Youth.
What I did not like was Doyle’s poor handling of depicting tension between Alice and Vijay. Don’t be surprised if you suddenly feel like throwing a vase at these two, when they share awkward moments. You’d feel like saying, ‘Come on guys! Just kiss and make-up already!! The world’s at stake!’ Just when you feel that the narrative is losing its pace, Doyle breathes life into it with completely bizarre events.
Don’t be intimidated by the thickness of The Mahabharata Quest: Alexander’s Secret. It’s is a solid page-turner that would keep you entertained throughout. It has the potential to be made into a movie some day. I imagine Irrfan Khan essaying the role of I.B. officer Imran while Hritik Roshan is made into the truly Greek God that he is, in the role of Alexander.

Oh btw, the book is not complete. It’s going to ‘be continued’ into the next edition.

I enjoyed reading it Mr. Doyle.  Release the next book soon!

Reviewed by Gaurav Dutta for Dreams and Drama.
This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Book Review - Ri : Homeland of Uncertainty by Paulami DuttaGupta

Author: Paulami DuttaGupta
ISBN-13: 978-8192893730
Binding: Paperback
Publisher: Fablery publications
Number of pages: 127
Genre: Fiction
Language: English
Price: Rs.150 (Got a review copy from the author)

About the book

About the Book: Trapped in the limbo between ideology and conscience, Manbha finds himself part of a terror outfit. An unexpected opportunity, anger, squalor and disillusionment - followed by armed combat and injury lead to the soul-searching that form the substance of this moving tale.

About the Author

Born in Shillong, many moons ago, with schooling at Loreto Convent, and an English Honors from St Edmunds College, Paulami started her career with 'All India Radio Shillong'. She wrote and also gave her voice to a few shows there. Later, she came down to Kolkata and got a post graduate degree in Comparative Literature from Jadavpur University. She had also taken a fancy to learning Spanish, but today confesses that she has forgotten most of it. In the past, she has written for 'The Times of India' in the 'Guwahati- Shillong Plus' edition and also 'The Shillong Times'. Television had always attracted her and was connected to the Bangla TV industry for about 6 years. She was associated with ETV- Bangla, Akash Bangla and Sony Aath in this period. Having left her day job in 2012, Paulami took up full time writing. Her first novel 'Pinjar' released in early 2012. She has also contributed to 'Minds@work' anthology and 'Family Matters' international anthology in 2013. Her second novel 'Unplanned Destiny' released in 2014. She is also the screenplay writer of the National Award winning Khasi film - Ri Homeland of Uncertainty. When she is not writing or watching movies, Paulami is either reading biographies or classic pieces of literature. Cricket, food, cinema, books and music are an integral part of her life.

Gaurav says

Ri, a Khasi word for ‘homeland’ takes us to a journey of the heartlands of Meghalaya, Shillong and the India-Bangladesh borders. Along with the varied geographical locations, this book takes you inside the minds of freedom fighters and law keepers. Political scenario, just after thirty years of independence, was much more intense and gory than it is today. Terrorists were gunning down innocents, who sided with the law. The police were nabbing down extremists through fake encounters. Between these two debacles, the northeastern states become unwitting victims. The civilians are torn between ideologies. They are resenting of the ‘local-outsider’ rift. On the other hand, the media glorifies the continuous failures of the administration to contain terrorism. What’s interesting is the drawn parallels between the thought process of the central freedom fighter, Manbha and the SP of Police, Kyndiah. Both want to fight for their beliefs. The former knows in his heart that freedom is the only solution to the excesses of the military. The latter knows that eradicating terrorizing patriots like Manbha, can truly bring peace.

The novel starts in July at Shillong with Kyndiah, weary of a pesky journalist trying to get a scoop out of him. As he steps out from his car to enter the Secretariat’s Office, journalists hound him for information on a fake encounter. The novel quickly moves on to an infiltration of India-Bangladesh border and from then on, to the terrorist camp. Here we read about fellow liberators Steve, George and Kyrmen who plans to exhibit ‘real fireworks’ on the upcoming Independence Day celebration.  
As the plot thickens, we get to learn about the inner conflicts of Kyndiah. He is conflicted between his work and family. He has distanced himself from his relatives while he considers his junior comrades as his own blood. He is troubled by his job. A good night’s sleep is luxury for him. A social life is a blessing. His inner sanctum of peace and calmness is completely shattered. He is under pressure by his seniors to bring atrocities under check. He despises the media and yet he harbors a strong opinion about Janet, a revered journalist. 

Kyndiah’s dilemmas are perfectly brought in sync with that of Manbha. He is in his 20s who left his home in search of a higher truth-freedom! What interested me is that he is equally disillusioned about his fight. Just like Kyndiah, he takes orders of shooting and bombing from his seniors. He is not sure whether his revolutionary ideologies have lost their meaning. At first sight, he is resolute, composed and ruthless. However, on further inspection, he is soft towards his comrades’ inhumanness, meted out to his own Khasi people. He has lofty dreams of bringing independence to Meghalaya. However, he doubts his own aspirations when confronted with reasonable arguments by one of his hostages, Emika. The ultimate showdown between the police and the terrorists is something to look for in the book. 

In true sense, Ri is indeed a homeland of uncertainty. Every gunshot, bombing and encounter reeks of corruption and military barbarousness. It evokes among the Khasis, one of Shakespeare’s famous quote, ‘to be, or not to be’. It means, they want to break away from the Indian union but not sure whether they’ll survive on their own.

The book is a solid page-turner. Paulami DuttaGupta recites the incidents as if they are unfolding right before your eyes. Never would you find a dull moment in the narrative. It will keep you hooked on to the finale, until you reach the last line and realize the bigger picture at play.

Reviewed by Gaurav Dutta for Dreams and Drama :)

Catch my take on the book release event here.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Meeting Paulami DuttaGupta of Ri - Homeland of Uncertainty

This Tuesday I got invited to attend the book release of Paulami DuttaGupta's Ri - Homeland of Uncertainty at Abar Baithak Cafe, Kolkata. I had read quite a couple of favourable reviews of the book and was eager to know more about it because the premises of the book are quite unusual and very interesting. What piqued my interest even more was the fact that Ri (meaning ''my land'' or "my country") was originally a screenplay for a Khasi movie which was later rewritten as a novella by Paulami herself.

 Unfortunate as it was, I was lost trying to figure the exact address and arrived a little late to find Mr. Badshah Maitra, veteran Tollywood actor, the chief guest delivering the keynote address. Paulami came running to welcome me, despite being so busy, the moment she noticed me entering. I settled down to listen to Mr. Maitra's opinion and views about the book and the subject it discussed.

You can watch the video here (it is in Bengali) -

Mr. Maitra discussed how ignorant most of us are when it comes to the North Eastern states of India. Most of us are aware and concerned about the rest of the country, the floods in Kashmir but only a very few of us are even cognizant of the flood problem in Northeast India. The conflict between the group of extremists and the administration, he notes, is a universal one, which Paulami deftly handles in her book.

Paulami DuttaGupta's father, Retired Professor, Mr. P. R. Dutta said something which had occurred to me before. He mentioned how ill-informed and generally indifferent we are to the Seven Sisters. Most of us know about Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, but people hardly know about freedom fighters from the Northeast like Rani Gaidinliu, Haipou Jadonang or Kiang Nongbah. They too fought for the freedom of their country. Unfortunately, nobody remembers them or their contribution to the freedom struggle. He told us an anecdote about a certain meeting where he was asked by a certain gentleman about the place he was from. He promptly answered "Shillong", a place the former failed to have even heard of. Mr. Dutta added how alarmed he feels when people think of it as a place in Assam (and not Meghalaya where it correctly belongs to). 

Paulami DuttaGupta also spoke about her book and the amount of research that went behind it. She informed us how she wanted to name her book "2004" and later decided against it because that would delimit the scope of the book as the issues brought forward are not merely about one year, they are eternal questions which have been asked over and again. She also noted that her book isn't an entirely fictional one because the incidents and the issues mentioned are very real and are a part of everyday life for the people of Meghalaya.  Paulami also answered a few queries and questions asked by the audience who wanted to know more about the book and its context.

The book release event was a really enriching experience where I came to know a lot of new aspects about the North Eastern states of India I myself was ignorant about. Paulami was a lovely host who came and talked to everybody present at the event and thanked them personally which is something I really loved. I couldn't talk much because she was really busy. I'm hoping to catch up with her real soon. As it turns out, Paulami happens to be a distant cousin of one of my classmates, Chandreyee!! The world indeed is a small place.

For those of you who are in Goa, you can catch the movie at the 45th International Film Festival, Goa on 24th NOVEMBER, 2014 AT 3:30 pm. VENUE: INOX-II, OLD GMC BUILDING, CAMPAL, PANJIM, GOA

Abar Baithak is this charming cafe near Dhakuria in Kolkata. It makes for a great place to gather with friends for a cup of coffee and chit chat. Do check out the place if you are around, you'll love it.

P.S.- My friend Gaurav Dutta took the book from me before I could read and review it. He has agreed to review the book for us (you see, I don't give books for free, I make people work for it ). Keep watching this space for his take on the book.

Till Then,