Wow. So the past few weeks have been chock filled with drama. One Accident. Missed deadlines. Drama. Drama. Drama.
No wonder this book review got lost in the midst of all this.
I got the books of the Shiva trilogy (well, the first two books) together out of curiosity and excitement. I remember when the Ram books by Ashok Banker came out. I loved them! Lyrical writing, a great and strong character, superb world building. And now here was something on Shiva, one of my favourite gods. I am not a very religious person but Shiva has always been able to hook me. Combined with a trip to Roopkund earlier this year, a place abound with Shiva myths and stories, I was really keen to find out how this translates into fiction.
Needless to say I was a bit disappointed. In Immortals of Meluha, Amish creates a world where India consists of several kingdoms – Meluha and Swadeep. Now Meluha is incredibly orderly – beautiful streets, sober architecture, rigid and strict laws. Here people live for ever thanks to this wondrous drink called Somras. Their love for order ensures that the caste system flourishes. However, Amish seems to have had a guilty complex about that, which has him introducing ‘improvements’ to the system. All children are taken away from their parents at birth and are given equal education. They go through competitive exams and choose their caste. Parents can then adopt whichever child they want – according to their caste. Everyone’s happy. But does anybody else get reminded of Brave New World, or is it just me?
And now on to Shiva – the character this book hinges on. He’s a tribal from Tibet but he has a destiny beyond that. A foreign soldier convinces him to abandon his land and move to Meluha – which he enters via Kashmir. On drinking the somras, he finds out he’s the Neelkant – the next Mahadev after Rudra. Everyone falls to their knees and worship him – for no real reason that he can discern. Through out the book, we see Meluha through Shiva’s eyes. He’s bowled over by how orderly and lawful things are – considering his own wild and lawless tribal background. Frankly, his character comes across as slightly wooden to me. Everything he does is expected, there are few, if any, shades of grey in his personality (and this is what makes a character beloved to me).
What I did like about the book: It has a fast pace. Biggest compliment I think it got – my mom read the book in a day (and she hasnt read books like that in a while!). It’s also good to see Indian authors venture into fantasy fiction based on mythology. I also liked the fact that the gods in the book are not ACTUALLY gods but men. This feeds into my ideology nicely. There are bits where I do like Shiva as well – his interactions with Brihaspathi and Brahma particularly. And his love for Sati, tinged with the desperation of spurned lover, was nicely captured.
My pet peeves? The writing. Amish tells rather than shows, my biggest no-nos. It’s good that the book is not a literary masterpiece – it is very obviously a book for the masses. However, it is not one that particularly appeals to my sensibilities. Second, the story. There is a story, obviously, because it’s supposed to go on for three books. However, it is clumsily crafted and predictable. I was not surprised by any of the twists in the story. The only thing that did surprise me was the liberties taken with mythology. In a country where our mythological stories are revered, I think this could have been delicately done. And finally, the character Shiva. For me Shiva in this book is probably the biggest Mary-Sue in Indian fiction. All authors see themselves in their settings. But here, he’s the main character, he gets a fantastic girl, and he is meant to save the world. This is self-satisfaction to the nth level.
My recommendation? Avoid the book if you are looking for something great. Read if you’re in an airport, train or just bored.
The Immortals of Meluha
Pages: 415. Rs. 195