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June 20, 2014

Book Review - 165 : Far Beyond The Dead End

Author : Saikat Baksi
Publisher : Srishti Publishers & Distributors

Millennia ago, the valley of Mohenja-Daro held one of the most organized and advanced civilizations for its time. Discovered in the late nineteenth century, all that was left of it now were ruins, and dead bodies. The mound of the dead, they called it, and rightly so. There were many dead bodies lying everywhere, and there stories were as mysterious as their states. What happened to the city of Mohenja-Daro? 

In a time when the city thrived, Koli was a seductive girl with an enigmatic charm. Sindhu lived with dreams burning in her eyes, and Girad with his burning passion for life. There were others, like the priest who professed to seeing a doomed future, a future cursed for all time. Their love, dreams, greed, mania and delusions formed a part of their lives, and added colour to it all the way. A mysterious series of deaths follows a frantic hunt for lust, gold and glory, and they do not stop until they destroy the very foundation of the city. Or until they venture Far Beyond the Dead End, to be discovered in the remnants of the lost city thousands of years later.

The author starts briskly and as a reader, you are interested in a superficial way - it is set in an era not many of us can claim to be familiar with and there lies its shortcoming - author never fully allows its reader to get used to the smells, sounds and surroundings of this city. Divided into three parts and only 230 odd pages long, it is wrapped up a little too neatly and too quickly for one's own convenience. A lot of people (read feminists) may be offended by the objectification and crudeness towards the female protagonist but more so because it seems forced and almost, derogatory at times.

I am going with 2.5 / 5 for Saikat Baksi's 'Far Beyond the Dead End'. It is set up in an unique world and promised much more at the start, but do not fully deliver on its promise. In the end, it is yet another triangular love story - just set up in a different era.

June 15, 2014

Quick notes on Impulse - a collection of short stories

Publisher : Rumour Books India
Author :  Reekrit Serai

Rating : 2 / 5

Impulse is a collection of short stories based on contemporary India, told with dark and mostly, tongue-in-the-cheek humour.  Most of the stories deal with love, lust, heartbreaks and takes you into a world inhabited by melancholy and at times, utter sadness. Not all stories work though, some are too short to make an impact, some lose their grip in the narrative and some don't have the right punch at the end as intended by the author. At times, author just don't invest into building the right atmospherics or characters and has been too hasty to dive into the main point. By doing this, there is hardly a surprising moment in these short stories.

Just about 170 odd pages and covering 18 short stories, most of the stories are short and crisp but hardly creates any dramatic impact.Coming from a new publishing house, you will find plethora of grammatical, punctuation, spelling and printing errors which i am sure can be taken care of in the future works ( I had the first edition to read). It's a good effort, but just not great to make you go wow!

June 10, 2014

Book Review - 163 : The Emperors Riddles

Author : Satyarth Nayak
Publisher : Amaryllis

The book begins with Om Patnaik, an author who has penned down numerous bestsellers containing scholarly stuff and is one of the most revered authors of the country. He has a bizarre fixation with number 9 and the reason behind it is explained in detail in the early part of the book. Ram Mathur, friend of Om Patnaik and a scholar himself is murdered on the ghats of Ganga. Ram, who is in Lucknow at that point of time is called on by Sia Mathur, daughter of Ram and is asked to be there at the murder site.

Inspector Parag Suri is investigating this case and names the murderer The Scorpion. The Scorpion is one a leash and is killing people across the country.As the story progresses, Om & Sia connect the dots left by Ram Mathur to resolve his murder mystery and while they are at it, they come very close to uncovering an ancient enigma that is so powerful that even Gods would kill for it.

I must admit the book has such an uncanny resemblance to last year's Ashwin Sanghi's 'The Krishna Key', a book i was not too fond of despite its commercial success. A murder mystery to be followed, a trail of mythology clues, the suspecting main protagonist, a serial killer on the loose and a back story involving the mythological/historical characters. Problem is here, the back story interspersed within the chapters (where the main narrative happens) rarely catches your attention. Drawback in Krishna Key was that the story of Krishna was just too familiar, here the material is obtuse, dense and does not provides a logical interconnections with the main narrative. In the end, these portions act as sore thumb in an otherwise taut thriller.

Nayak builds the pace with the solving of trailing clues and as a reader, you are engrossed once the clues keep opening up. The writer keeps a tight leash on its characters, furiously explaining the logic behind each clue and the background on each of it. The editing is water tight and it helps that the author does not over do the explaining of mythological references. Bouncing off an impressive cover, there is not too much time building up characters but straight away you are thrown right in the center of the murder. It grows on you as the pages progress and is saved by a climax which is surprising yet particularly believable. It also helps that writer ties up most ends to avoid any logical fallacies usually associated with such thrillers.

I am going with 3/5 for Satyarth Nayak's 'The Emperors Riddles'. Barring those portions of mythological references, it's a taut book most suitable for mythological fans. A quick weekend read, go for it.

"This review is a part of The Readers Cosmos Book Review. For details log on to"

June 1, 2014

Quick Notes on 'Working Hard is Not enough'

Author : TGC Prasad
Publisher : Random Business / Random House India

Rating : 3 / 5

Why do only a minimal percentage of people succeed and get promoted or become entrepreneurs? Only working hard won’t help, you also need to work smart and need to make a difference in your performance. The book Working Hard is Not Good Enough helps you understand how to deal with the management and move up the ladder.

Having read all books by TGC Prasad, i must admit he does go about writing his books with painstakingly detail and meticulous research only to get undo everything by sloppy and uneven editing. Problem with his books to me has always been length and loose ends. There is no clear differentiation of what is 'done-to-death' and 'what-is-new-and-exciting' portions. 

Prasad, as in the case of previous non-fiction titles, does well when not relying on excessive jargon and business-like language to elucidate his management insights. Rather he concentrates on fairy-tale telling or using real life metaphors to strengthen the points of institutional leadership, diversity, intuition, learning & unlearning and innovation. But how many stories borne out of Apple & Steve jobs are new? How many of these stories about work culture of Google you have not read before? And there lies the most basic problem for me with the book.

With well read people picking up this book, the middle portions are a slog. The examples and stories are boring and done to death kind and even though they are deliberated sufficiently to be put in the right places, they go on for too long and adds too little. With stories after stories and very little practical or theoretical portions to back them up, the book becomes difficult to like.

Working hard is not good enough is an insightful, yet long and draining management book for all who want to make a difference to their performance, potential and life in general - to achieve success and importantly happiness. If you are not into reading management/business books, this can be an ideal start to pick one. For the oldies, it seems to be yet another business book to boost the author's consulting business.