Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Mahabharata Quest - The Alexander Secret by Christopher C. Doyle

Blurb: 334 B.C. Alexander the Great begins his conquest of the Persian Empire. But his plans for everlasting glory do not end there and the young king marches towards the Ends of the Earth - the lands of the Indus - on a secret quest. It will lead him to an ancient secret concealed in the myths of the Mahabharata; a secret that is powerful enough to transform him into a god...

PRESENT DAY. In Greece, the ancient tomb of a queen is discovered: a tomb that has been an enigma for over 2000 years. In New Delhi, the Intelligence Bureau discovers unexplained corpses in a hidden lab. Vijay Singh and his friends, now members of an elite task force, are sucked into a struggle with a powerful and ruthless enemy. In a deadly race against time, they will need to solve a riddle from antiquity that will lead them to encounter shocking secrets from the past; secrets that will reveal mystifying links between ancient history, the Mahabharata and an ancient enemy with diabolical plans for a future that will hold the world to ransom...

The Quest has just begun...
After the Mahabharata Secret, Christopher C. Doyle yet again explores the science behind the enduring mythology of the Mahabharata and brings it alive in a contemporary setting. The result is a gripping story that will keep you hooked right until the last page.

My thoughts: This haphazard non-review has been languishing in my drafts for weeks past the deadline. I apologize for that. When The Mahabharata Quest arrived for review, I found myself skimming through the cover blurb and the author introduction. The acknowledgments begin, "This book owes its existence to many people without whom it would never have been written," and the clumsy redundancy made me smile. The writer's bio boasts of mentors of the likes of Heinlein, Asimov, Tolkien and Wells. Way to build up expectations!

The Mahabharata Quest is confusingly and predictably the first of a series. The lead characters of The Mahabharata Secret do return, Colin and Imraan and Vijay Singh, of course, and others. I think the author has done a good job of reintroducing the characters and back story without making it confusing for someone who directly reads this book. Even the new characters, like Alice, are interesting once you get to know them. An issue that I had with the first book persists, the dialogue is clumsily unrealistic and no person in the book has a distinctive voice. Colin might as well be from Delhi. A lot of the book is told, not shown, and this flaw is most obvious in its characters. They all behave the same, to an extent, and say much the same things. 

I like the riddles and clues and how the group solves them, even those that aren't well articulated. It's historical fiction, and if there's one thing historical fiction thrives on, it's research. I've always felt that a well researched novel is one that manages to blend the information into the story. Information dumps are most distasteful. Less is more, right? The Mahabharata Quest suffers from pompous show-off-ery, and the author doesn't seem to get enough of basking in the glory of all the effort he's put into the book. A glossary or section of references would have been nice. But all the maps are just an unnecessary distraction. 

The blurb promises thrills and it does deliver on that front. It kept me hooked, and I surprised myself by how willing I was to ignore the awkward phrasing and read further, eager to find out what happened next. So, believe me when I say, I could have ignored the aforementioned annoyances and the fact that the ending was a little anticlimactic, had it not been for the unresolved threads. Leaving loose strands of story to be tied together in the sequel is the worst form of manipulation to ensure future readers. It's just lazy.

Remember back when writing a book was a big deal? Now, we regularly find authors making money churning out books in incorrigible patterns. This is not to imply that said books are badly written. I do think that The Mahabharata Quest is a good book. I read its predecessor, The Mahabharata Secret, only weeks ago. It was recommended to me by a friend, and in times of the sort of boredom that precedes college exams, it made an exciting read. To occasional readers, The Mahabharata Quest - The Alexander Secret will surely be the gripping story that it promises to be. But let's just call the author India's Dan Brown, because I can't for the life of me name one thing that made this book distinctly more memorable than all the books out there or significantly different from his first. So it's not a bad book, but the fact that I can't think of anyone I'd recommend it to should say something.


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