Vicious Circle (A Felix Castor Novel)- Mike Carey

 

Vicious Circle- Mike Carey
Vicious Circle- Mike Carey

In the follow-up to his debut novel, The Devil You Know, Mike Carey brings us Felix Fix Castor, embroiled in another sinister ghost-hunting campaign. Though this time, it seems that Castor has bit off more than he can chew.

The first surprise comes when he has to track a “missing ghost”. A young girl who dies and returns to her parents’ house seems to disappear and the parents are distraught to find their daughter’s spirit. From then he stumbles on to an abusive ex-husband, malicious demonic rituals and the big daddy of all exorcisms, the Catholic Church.

To keep himself and the missing ghost from further harm, Castor turns to zombies, werewolves, and a succubus for help. The element of intrigue is forever present and some of the ritual practices revealed will definitely shock. For people who call these things supernatural mumbo-jumbo, you will be forced to really consider the question a bit more deeply. And for those already into supernatural incidents and powers, this one will keep you up for nights.

Known to comic fans for his work on HELLBLAZER, Carey brings the same kind of chilling writing into Vicious Circle. . Mike Carey suffuses dry wit and dark humor into this tale of horrific revenge and rescue missions. If the first book was excellent, this one raises the bar further. I can hardly wait to get my hands on the third book for this hell of a series.

 

You can also read the review here.

The Devil You Know (A Felix Castor Novel)- Mike Carey

 

The Devil You Know- Mike Carey
The Devil You Know- Mike Carey

Mike Carey is an acclaimed British writer who’s worked on comics like Lucifer, Hellblazer, X-Men, Crossing Midnight and The Unwritten. His debut novel, The Devil You Know centers around Felix Fix Castor, your modern-day exorcist who has to banish the occasional spirit, ghost or demon to pay his bills.

The novel begins with Castor pondering over his ill chosen career and trying to give it up. While trying to make ends meet, he takes up a seemingly simple exorcism in a museum at the heart of London. To his surprise and deflated ego, the blood-veiled specter seems reluctant to respond to tactics that would have ensured Castor a good quick fee. Castor probes deeper and finds himself making some more enemies which includes a rapacious succubus. How Castor manages to save himself from the dead, while not pissing them off too much makes for an immensely exciting read.

This is not your typical brooding horror book, thanks to our hero Felix Castor who can’t himself from blurting out wisecracks while facing his many nemeses. He’s your anti-hero in a hero, one who knows he’s a mean bastard and seems to enjoy it. But he’s also your savior of souls and you will like him and girls reading this will definitely find him very, very attractive.

Mike Carey brings the elements of horror and detective thrillers and combines them effortlessly to give us a supernatural adventure that gives the chills and tickles the funny bone too.

You can also read the review here.

Misery by Stephen King- Book Review

 

Misery - Stephen King
Misery - Stephen King

Misery was the first Stephen King novel I read. Before I begin with the review of this book, let me say how I feel about Stephen King novels in general. I’ve mostly seen the movie versions of his novels. I’ve read bits and parts of his stories, his writing to me seems interesting and twisted, one that I’d love to pick up on a weekend and scare the living daylights out of myself. So what about Misery?

Misery revolves around Paul Sheldon, the author of a best-selling series of Victorian-era romance novels surrounding the heroine character Misery Chastain. Having finished his manuscript of Fast Cars, a new novel, he decides to go to Los Angeles by road from Colorado. On his way, his car gets caught in blizzard and he loses consciousness in the struggle. He wakes up to find himself rescued by Annie Wilkes, a former nurse who lives nearby. There she nurses him to health and claims herself to be his number one fan. Throughout all this, she never takes him to the hospital, but keeps him in her house, sedated with painkillers.

She reads his latest manuscript and disapproves of it. She buys the latest copy of the Misery series, where she’s shocked to find that Paul Sheldon has killed off Misery. Enraged, she demands that he burn his new manuscript and continue the Misery series by bringing her back from death. And what she does to Paul Sheldon to get her wishes fulfilled is what this novel is all about. And it is gruesome and awful.

There are scenes so vividly described that they would make you cringe, would make your skin crawl. I so hated Annie Wilkes, I kept imagining ways for her to die in the same cruel manner that she would make Sheldon suffer. And I felt angry at Sheldon for making stupid decisions like taking the car to LA. I was so engrossed in hating Annie that I never really looked at King’s writing. I was so put off by the book that I swore never to read Stephen King; I was so disgusted by Annie Wilkes the character that I washed my hands clean of Stephen King novels.

I guess the fact that the book succeeded in evoking such strong emotions in me should be a mark of merit for this book. And it does hold true, the book will affect you strongly. Some books are for pleasant reading and some are for giving your mind a ruddy good wake-up call. This one is of the latter kind.

Now whenever I come across a Stephen King novel, I read the description hungrily, look at the cover and its pages and its numerous good reviews longingly and put it in my basket of books. Then I think of Misery and I quietly replace it on its shelf.

I know I’m missing out on too much. But you know how first experiences are..

 

You can also read the review here.

 

Book Review: Diary A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk

Diary - Chuck Palahniuk
Diary - Chuck Palahniuk

Diary is Chuck Palahniuk’s sixth fictional novel, following the success of books like Fight Club, Invisible Monsters and Choke.

Diary is written in the form of, well, a diary, by the leading character Misty Wilmot, a one time promising artist, now working as waitress in a resort hotel on Waytansea Island, where she landed after marrying her art school boyfriend Peter Wilmot.

While looking to sort her life and come out of it alive, she has completely given up art, any hope of becoming a renowned artist, any promise of returning to her old talent. Misty seems to think the whole town is urging her to start painting again so that she can restore the family to their old grandeur and wealth and also save Waytansea island from being turned into a tourist dump. She seems to be able to paint only when she’s under extreme duress.

The diary shows her journey through her days, from when she reluctantly picks up the brush, how she copes with her miseries and how she comes to face the reality which turns her world upside down.

The novel is short, precise and cuts across like a sharp knife. Palahniuk always claims to write in verbs i.e. his story is told in action, his characters are talking and acting, he doesn’t waste much time describing background, settings, and other elements of the bigger picture. This style works very well for his writing and his plots- he keeps the reader focused on the main story and uses his characters to channelize the emotions from a first person voice, which obviously is more engrossing for the reader.

Some parts of the novel will elicit very strong reactions; one almost cringes at the cruelty she has to suffer to produce great art. That’s one of the distinctive features of Palahniuk’s works, they have scenes of physical, mental and psychological violence which can remain frozen in your memory for a long long time. Though he has been criticized for employing violence and disturbing imagery with excessive force and frequency, one can’t deny that it lends a distinctive and vivid touch to his writing.

Diary will keep you engrossed, cringing and breathless throughout its 270 odd pages. A must read for Chuck Palahniuk fans and for those who’d like to experiment with horror and satire concocted in a heady blend.

 

You can read the complete review here.

Book Review: Corridor- A Graphic Novel by Sarnath Banerjee

Corridor- Sarnath Banerjee
Corridor- Sarnath Banerjee

Touted as India’s first graphic novel, Banerjee’s Corridor is the portrayal of Indian Life in Lutyen’s Dehi, through four wacky characters. There’s Jehangir Rangoonwala- second hand book shop owner, a modern-day Socrates wannabe and also a chaiwallah for his rare and eccentric customers. He surveys his small kingdom with the eye of an hawk and panders to the wishes and worries of people queuing outside his doors.

One of the customers is Brighu, an old soul searching for rare items and for an even rarer love. There’s Digital Dutta, confused between desires and ambitions, lost in musings of Marx and H1-B visas. And last but not least is the newly married Shintu, in desperate search of an aphrodisiac to add zing and spice to his marriage. Banerjee’s characters delight us with their sanguinity, insanity and relentless pursuit of a better life. One of the most memorable and hilarious scene is of Shintu using a dubious oil given to him by his household maid to improve the “intimate relationship” with his wife.

Written and illustrated by Banerjee himself, the lines and graphics will regale you through the course of a hundred odd pages. I think that writers who illustrate their own work get add their own personal touch to the artwork which blends with the storyline seamlessly and looks and reads better in the bigger picture.

To refute the claim made in the beginning of the review, Corridor is definitely not India’s first graphic novel. But the claim worked wonders for the book’s success, and in a vague way the guys at Penguin India were right to make the claim. It was the first of its kind to make an appearance on the Indian graphic fiction scene, and gave much needed attention and impetus to the amateur comics scene in India.

To all of us who have grown up on Tinkle, Amar Chitra Katha and those of us who love graphic novels, this one is a must pick. And I’m sure all the fanboys in India already have their hands on this, and if you don’t, shame on you!

 

You can also read the review here.

Kari- Book Review

 

Kari - Amruta Patil
Kari - Amruta Patil

Kari is the dark twisted tale of our eponymous character. Twenty something, working as a copywriter for an ad firm in the city of dreams, she wakes up to a failed suicide attempt. Or was it? Her love and soulmate Ruth has left the city, saved by safety nets while she was left to crawl from a sewer into a landfill. Thus begins Amruta Patil’s debut graphic novel, throwing the reader into a whirlwind of colors and words from the first page.

She takes us on a ride with Kari, where she stumbles and falls, retraces her steps, and picks up after herself. We watch her floating through life as if in a dream and search for meaning in trance, all the while struggling wearily with the dreariness of real life, mundane and painful. Patil paints a picture of gloom and despair, her grey ink leaking from pages, into the lives of her characters.

There are writers and there are illustrators. Amruta Patil dons both hats with apparent ease and adroitness. Her words and colors melt into each other, her writing and artwork complementing each other, like two entwined streams of thought and consciousness. She captures the city’s soul and her heroine’s with a keen observer’s eye and infuses a sense of dystopia that at once overwhelms and relieves. Kari’s emotional turmoil, her distorted realities, and her alter-egos each have their own nuanced hues and shades, bringing to the reader a breathless and entrancing escapade from our monochromatic lives.

Amruta Patil has a Master in Fine Arts from the School of the Museum of Fine Art, Boston, and has been an editor, a copywriter and a school teacher before making her fray into the world of graphic novels. Kari has been claimed to be a definitive piece of work in Indian graphic fiction and is a must read for graphic novel lovers and people who love the feminine mind, body and soul.

 

You can also find the review here.

Book Review: Jonathan Livingston Seagull

 

Jonathan Livingston Seagull- Richard Bach
Jonathan Livingston Seagull- Richard Bach

I have no idea why people love this book so much. I tried to, I did too, I really did, but god help me if I can understand a stupid seagull wanting to be Houdini.

First and foremost, I have a problem with Richard Bach’s writing. Look at his name, he’s called Bach. You expect great things out of Bach. I’m sure loadsa people just picked this stuff because they had heard good things about the name Bach. Well, then they couldn’t say they didn’t like it, could they? All the classic jazz and peer pressure stuff.

So I’d hear great things about this book, but I wasn’t ever that interested.  But one day I chanced upon it and picked it up from a friend (which reminds me, I must return it, it’s so not worth keeping). The first part went on fine, with poor seagull not wanting to conform to the norms of seagull society and blah blah. Yeah, we all get that sod about individuality and perfection and whatnot. But Bach can turn the most interesting subjects into spiritual tripe with his plaintive writing and over-pondering on bigger picture with help of Chinese mysticism.

Somewhere in part two and three he stumbles onto a mish mash of physics, aerodynamics, living in a higher plane and love, yes love. I get it that there’s an allegory, a larger metaphor here but he just turned the topic and the allegory into a big gob of boring mumbo-jumbo.

I’m anyway not much of a person to read self-help or spiritual books, and this a bit of both. If you are the kind, go ahead, go learn to fly and be high and all that. If you’re not the kind, save your breath, and brains, and time.

You can also read other reviews here.

Lonesome Dove- Book Review

 

Lonesome Dove- Larry McMurty

I have always wanted to read a Western. This was my first one, and to date is my favorite one too. It is a long saga, where a good 864 odd pages slip by , entertaining and engrossing at every turn of the page.  In one word, the book is #epic.

The story begins in the late 1870s, in the small town of Lonesome Dove. Augustus “Gus” McCrae and Captain Woodrow F Call, are passing their days idly as owners of the Hat Creek Cattle Company and Livery Emporium when a former comrade called Jake Spoon shows up after being away for more than ten years. A man on the run, Jake tells them of his travels and his breathtaking imagery of Montana inspires Call to take his cattle and men there an set up the first ranch on the frontier.

Lonesome Dove was first conceived as a movie script in 1972 but was shelved owing to actors backing out. Ten years later, McMurty resurrected the script into a full length novel, which became a bestseller and won him a Pulitzer Prize. This movie has been made into a movie, a television mini series and has spawned three more novels in a series, which then led to their corresponding TV series being made. His characters Gus and Call are part of Western legends.

On their journey, they come across more colorful characters with their own amusing tales, dangerous bandits and fight for their survival. They meet new people, cross old faces and places, carry some of them forward along their journey and leave some of them behind. McMurty has painted a picture so vivid and rich in details, his characters breathing life into the story, one has to keep up with their imagination to grapple with the many facets of this riveting story.

His scenes are sometimes action packed and sometimes laid-back, soaked in introspection by the characters. What McMurty draws from the reader is strong emotions, you won’t be able to just trail the pages, and they will pull and involve you into something intense- be it laughter or shock or a terrible form of sadness. I remember one scene where Deets is trying to read and it was mild humor, but made me laugh and choke for a full five minutes. The book offers many such instances of extreme responses and this is what makes it such an adventure to remember!

Read the complete review here.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover- Book Review

Lady Chatterley's Lover- D H Lawrence
Lady Chatterley's Lover- D H Lawrence

Lady Chatterley’s Lover is probably the most controversial and most misunderstood novel of the twentieth century. The time in which it first came out was one of the primary reasons for its notoriety, but for the same reason it is also a highly commendable and one of the finest works of the time, proving Lawrence was a bold and brave man possessing courage to speak his mind within the realms of art, with the genius and understanding of a visionary.

The story revolves around a young married woman, Constance (Lady Chatterley) and her relationship with Oliver Mellors, gamekeeper of her husband’s estate and born to a class that’s beneath her and her husband’s social standing.

Constance,the protagonist, called Connie throughout the novel, who hails from a Scottish bourgeois family marries Clifford Chatterley, a baronet who prides himself on his membership in the aristrocracy, however a small part that may be. Following the first World War, Clifford becomes paralyzed from the waist down, which renders him impotent.

During their stay at Wragby Hall, she meets Oliver Mellors who goes on to be her lover in the story. Mellors comes across as a reticent man, who has a strong disdain for his rich masters. As Connie comes to know him, she realises that beneath his rough exterior and broad Derbyshire accent, there lies an intelligent, deep man with a noble heart and a sense of humor brimming with sarcasm.

Meanwhile in the novel, a new relationship begins to develop between Clifford and Mrs. Bolton, their middle-aged nurse who looks after him. Mrs.Bolton displays motherly affection and care for him,worshipping him for his success and intellect. While Connie and Mellors are moving away from dissatisfied relationships to a nurturing one, Clifford and Mrs.Bolton are heading towards a malicious and twisted one.

Though these relationships form the heart of the novel, the author explores the class and social conflict in the background. He depicts that through Mellors disregard for authority and Mrs.Bolton’s grudging admiration of Clifford.

The novel requires one to look beyond the narration, and into the characters’ minds and their words. On the surface, what is an adulterous affair, is also the rendering of one of the most beautiful relationships a man and woman can have. One that doesn’t discard passion for the meeting of minds, nor does it become mindless in the pursuit of primal desires. Lawrence describes the love making without euphemisms, without pretense and without any false modesty. He uses vernacular terms and words that are still black-listed. His work can be compared to that of Goya’s The Naked Maya which invited much ire and controversy. When the reader refuses to go beyond what he sees, he reduces a work of art to commonness or worse, to being obscene.

The book still faces censorship in many countries, a fact which still rankles free speech supporters. Even more obscene is the fact that even when the mainstream media is profligate, authorities still gun for works of art containing explicit material that might be central to the work or act as an instrument of art.

For those who have only heard of controversies of the book, it would do good to pick this one up and find out for yourself. The book is as dirty a book as Galileo was a madman for his heresies.

You can find the complete review here.

Book Review : Animal Farm

Animal Farm-George Orwell
Animal Farm-George Orwell

The year was 2004. I was with couple of friends, discussing books that we’d read and how they were. After moving on from the heroines of Sidney Sheldon and the shrewd rags-to-riches billionaires of Jeffrey Archer, we broached upon other lesser potboilers. Somehow the talk led to Animal Farm. I’d finished reading that book with much patience and bit of difficulty about a year back or so. At the mention of this book, one of my friends piped up, “It’s so boring. There are only animals talking all the while and ordering other animals about. Such a stupid book!” I sat there, stunned. I was torn between wanting to laugh, to smack her or just commiserate with her for I’d felt that way when I’d heard of the book for the first time.

When I’d picked it up, I remember struggling through first few pages and trying to see beyond it. Then when the pigs began to become more equal than the others, I thought I knew where it was leading. I read the book a second time immediately after finishing the first read. Saw through the representation of animals, human nature. The book is said to be an allegorical depiction of USSR and communism. The book is said to be a lot many things, a dystopia, a representation of politics and so on.

For me, the book remains the representation of human nature, the balance of power between people and how the scales tip. Any society, every society functions on rules and rules give power. A society is how it distributes power and who it deems worthy to hold the power. I’d like to believe beyond the political conflicts implied in the book, it goes beyond isms. It is a very subtle, dark and almost comical depiction of how human society functions.

The greatest thing about the book is it’s size. An hundred odd pages, minus much musings and ponderings that lead nowhere, a fable told directly and with simple words, the book asks only one thing of you. That you think, that you read and think.

Read the complete review here.