Kalyug- Book Review

This is an original fiction title, just published. Written by first-time author Sreeram Ramakrishnan, it is a thriller set in present-day India.

Meticulously detailed, it sets out with a writer being called upon to witness a coup 'as it happens', in Delhi. A shadowy organisation claiming to do it in the nation's interest, puts up a puppet as the Head of the new government, and runs it by remote control. There is another organisation run by an industrialist, with nexus abroad, which is a rival power-monger, appropriately called 'Powerhouse'. The coup succeeds, and the rival, Powerhouse, attempts to sabotage the new 'government' by all means available to it. There is an exciting finale to resolve the various threads.

The unique thing about the story is its contemporary Indian setting, and characters drawn from recent political history. Many of the characters and events are recognisable, and add to the curiosity of the reader about how things will pan out for each one of them. The crux of the story is a defence scandal (from recent memory of a similar one that actually happened) involving shoddy equipment that ends up killing soldiers on the front, and one general's commitment to expose it. A female journalist also takes it upon herself to get to the bottom of things, and plays a pivotal role, and the love interest.

There is also interference from Britain and the US, sometimes positively affecting events, but usually looking down upon India from their high horses-pretty accurate in its depiction. There are plenty of surprises, and the writing is first rate.

A well-researched, high-voltage drama, and scary in its implications, it reminds the reader of how easily democracy can be subverted, with just a few years' planning, and a handful of committed people, if things are rotten in Denmark. A good read!


Diamond Head said...

problem with 'Kal' is it implies yesterday as well as tomorrow

Anonymous said...

But you are a great reviewer too. You add life even in book reviews.

Prakrti said...

Reading Kalyug. Covered over 60 %. The writing is first rate. I like the terse style with the occasional flash of wry humor. The language is splendid. There is variety in the words used. Sreeram has obviously done a lot of homework with his technique. Compared to what passes off as Indian popular fiction now, I must say he is way, way too good a debutant.
Negatives... there is a great plot but the actual story feels thin and the characters slightly flat. It reminds us a bit too much of recent political happenings...(Frederick Forsyth is the only one can pull that off gracefully but hey, this is the author's first and all is forgiven on that count !) And I think we could have had bit more detail in the documentary style...

P.S. Sorry I am hijacking your review but I don't blog and I simply couldn't resist airing my two-penny worth of opinions.

P.S.S Oh! and I LOVED the author details page!!

Rajendra said...

nice mini-review, Prakrti. I have no problems with the 'hijack'. Will pass on this to Sreeram, who I know.

Sreeram Ramakrishnan said...

Hi Prakrti,

Sreeram here - Dr. Nargundkar's student and the author of Kalyug. So glad you are enjoying the book. Thank you for the compliments and the criticism, and I hope you'll let me know how you like the whole thing when you are done reading.


Prakrti said...

Hi Sreeram,
Now THIS is great!! Wonderful work. Kudos. ok, I am on page 367 now... catch you in a few minutes :)

Sreeram Ramakrishnan said...

Hi Prakrti,

You really shouldn't keep an author in suspense like this! :)


Prakrti said...

Dear Dr. Nargundkar...
Would much appreciate it if you could pass this on to Sreeram...and please do so without posting this online, if so desired.

Hi Sreeram,
Hi! Sorry about the suspended animation. Couldn't make it online yesterday :)
Let me start with an apology.. I read thrillers voraciously - thrillers of every conceivable variety. Hence I am rather hypercritical, but I mean no harm. I'm all bark an no bite :P I hope sincerely that you wont be offended..
As I mentioned earlier, excellent language and technique. You are a great writer - you have a way with words.
I also like the plot - a coup in India, which is an idea that most of us talk about in our teens and early twenties.
The opening chapters are just great - the right mix of everything. So are the good governance ideas sprinkled throughout the book. I like the way you have researched things. Not many Indian writers manage to get their facts right and some of the results are outright hilarious. SO it's a relief to see someone who does.
So, all in all, it's a good book, Sree. Something that you can't just rush through and forget. Something which can keep one thinking. Way to go!!

Now, I will start the nitpicking.

You are an excellent writer and a good storyteller. (I know you noticed the adjectives.) A bit more of human drama would have kept me more glued to the pages. Yes, some writers do get away without fleshing out their characters but it's not a common phenomenon. (And no, I absolutely don't mean the 'detective's divorce and wayward kid' kind of human drama! :D )
There are some aces that you could have kept up your sleeve until the very last. I am tempted to list them but well, I don't want to spoil the suspense. And yes, there are a few incidents that seeeeem....errrrr... over the top?
Also more nitty gritty details about how exactly the coup came about would have been much appreciated.
And now, a tiny critique about the language... too many quirky phrases.. For example - the bit about good, bad and worse news... again the play on sense and sensibility which I saw someplace... Attention grabbing sentences like that are excellent in moderation but I think I chanced across a couple more than what was required.

But to sum everything up, your book is great. Waiting for the next because I can smell a sequel.

Sreeram Ramakrishnan said...

Hi Prakrti,

Thank you for a lovely review. You needn't have worried - what you've told me falls into one of only two categories, encouraging praise or constructive criticism, and I couldn't have written Kalyug if I had tuned out either. I'd love to hear more (especially the over-the-top scenes ;) ) - so if you could drop a line whenever you get the time to sr at ramsutra.com, I'd welcome it.
Once again, thank you! :)

Rajendra said...

I didn't have to do anything, Prakrti. Sreeram was keyed in, even before I got to your latest comment. Glad that he got what he wanted-an honest appraisal from an interested reader. Hopefully that should bring on the sequel faster!

And nice of you to do so on my blog. I was quite happy to connect you two (the first time).

Prakrti said...

Dear Sir,
Thanks a lot sir. It's not often that I get to be the rabid, ranting critic to the author himself :D Normally I have to content myself with venting at home.. So the pleasure is very much mine :)

Sure Sree, I will get in touch with you sometime :) Keep up the good work and keep writing, man!!


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