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Archive for the ‘Science Fiction’ Category


The Ex-Files
Vandana Shah | Penguin | Rs 299

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 9.07.05 PMTechnology has made us believe that we all live in a global village, ground facts however are different. Each nation and each society is bound by its own mores and social inequities. Vandana Shah’s coming of age autobiography about a 3-year-old marriage and a 10-year-long divorce reflects the conflicted India we live in. On one had we have ‘well-to-do’ and ‘well-educated’ people who feel entitled to control women (be it fathers, relatives, husbands, sons), and on the other we have Shah, who’s asking, “Will someone please get up and change this system?” It’s a long battle. Still.

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The Small Big
Steve J Martin, Noah J Goldstein & Robert B. Cialdini | Profile Books | Rs 399

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 9.07.27 PMModern studies in the field of neuroscience, cognitive psychology, social psychology and behavioral economics have given us many insights about how we react and why. The authors of this book have gathered some of these ‘insights’ to help people organize their businesses and manage their employees. These tips warn the writers need to be used judiciously and wisely, “Trying to use too many tools of persuasion at once could actually make it more difficult to achieve the outcome you are hoping for.” In other words, the tips may not work all the time!

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Pathfinder
Angie Sage | Bloomsbury | Rs 350

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 9.07.43 PMEveryone needs magic. Angie Sage re-kindles it in her story of Alice Tod Hunter Moon, a young Pathfinder who leaves her seaside village in search of a lost friend, Ferdie. Rumour has it that Ferdie has been taken by the mysterious creature caked Garmin and Alice needs to rescue him. Set against the backdrop of Cornwall marshlands, this story is part of a trilogy sequel to the adventures of Septimus Heap and Jenna, the princes. For those who love the warmth and humour of Sage’s stories this trilogy is a special gift this season. Enjoy it.

(The above reviews appeared in Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 28 December 2014.)

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Life in a Rectangle
Sujit Sanyal| Finger Print| Rs 395

In this delightful pocketbook memoir on advertising business in Kolkata between 1970-90s, ad guru Sujit Sanyal, recalls the advertising agencies, the ideas and the people that shaped the industry in its incumbency. He talks extensively of Clarion (Satyajit Ray started his career at the agency, the communist student leader Prasanta Sanyal was its managing director) as well as its campaigns (the agency designed the first ever campaign for a political party in 1977 – ‘You vote for yourself when you vote for Congress’). But not only. Other agencies also get a mention, as do the people that headed them. An absorbing read, whether you are an ad man or a lay reader.

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Mahabharata
Shiv K Kumar| Harper Collins|Rs 399

“One wonders,” says Prof Kumar, “why most versions of the Mahabharata do not visualise its potential as a story rich in poetic beauty and aroma.” While this may hold true, it cannot be denied, that the epic has been translated into many languages and in many imaginative ways at different points of time as well. The Mughals did it, so did the Brits. Like AK Ramanujan’s collection and retelling of Three Hundred Ramayanas, there is no reason why there should not be many retellings of Mahabharata. Each age and each writer brings his or her sensibility to the mega tale. Prof Kumar’s version is a welcome addition to the lot.

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Embassytown
China Mieville| Pan Books| £ 7.99

In this skillfully crafted science fiction tale, Mieville, looks at problems of communication and the potency of language. Action takes place in the future – in a universe formed of “homo-diaspora” where humans engage in barter economy around living biotechnology – a world where hosts speak only truth and aliens, lies; where subjugation and propaganda are complicit in the language. Could it be possible that language is not just a tool of oppression, but that it could be the instrument of resistance? Mieville says he deals with “monsters”. His imaging of the future of language, its role and power, is his battle with one.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 25 March 2012)

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The Two-Second Advantage
How We Succeeded in Anticipating Future – Just Enough

Vivek Ranadive & Kevin Maney | Hachette India | 256 pp, Rs 499

Sometime back, America’s prime retailer, Wal-Mart noticed that certain products, among them, pre-    baked toaster pastries made by Kellogg flew off the shelves just before a hurricane hit a region. Armed with this information it now regularly rushes these snacks to the stores in the hurricane’s path. The authors, Vivek Ranadive and Kevin Maney, call this ‘the two-second advantage’. Most people, they argue, can be divided into two types – those born with natural talent and those that hone their skills over time. The two represent how our brain works, an area that is being studied and co-opted by neuroscientists to develop predictive technology in areas as diverse as google search, increasing wine production to managing GPS based traffic snarls. Enterprises need to seize this advantage, even if it violates privacy issues. After all, hasn’t the use of surveillance cameras, mobiles and other tech solutions made our neighbourhoods and countries safer, they ask? Not all may agree.

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Silent Scream
Kishin R Wadhwaney |Siddharth Publications| 172 pp, Rs 400

Veteran cricket journalist, KR Wadhwaney takes on Ruchira Girhotra case to highlight “the over all sexual morality obtaining in the country.” Sadly, Wadhwaney makes no attempt to study how people in position of power sexually exploit young sporting talent in India. Instead, he focuses on retelling the sordid Ruchira saga while making not so charitable remarks about modern women. He notes that today’s woman is no longer symbol of ‘Sati-Savitri’ and that she’s more readily inclined towards pre-marital sex than a boy is. By dropping her guard, he argues, women invite trouble and pain. Today a woman, “Enjoys freedom of speech, dress and actions but all this should not be at the expense of safety, morality and chastity.”His empathy towards Ruchira and how the case unfolded, including how former Haryana IGP SP Singh Rathore exploited the political, bureaucratic and judicial system to serve his ends, however, saves the book from dissolving into a rant on modern day mores.

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The Turning Point
516 pp,
Rs 499

The Web of Life
320 pp, Rs 399

The Hidden Connections
272 pp, Rs 399

Fritjof Capra | Harper Collins India

When ‘The Turning Point’ was first published in 1982, Fritjof Capra was basking in the limelight of ‘Tao of Physics’ – a seminal book on how scientific ideas merge with mysticism. With ‘The Turning Point’ he examined how important areas of contemporary life including medicine, psychology, economics, political science and ecology would inevitable guide modern day science. Then came ‘Web of Life’ and ‘The Hidden Connections’ where Capra discarded the thinking of Descartes and Newton, in favour of a more holistic, ecological view. His radical synthesis of scientific theories including Gaia theory and chaos theory paved way for an extraordinary new foundation for ecological policies that would allow us to build and sustain communities without diminishing opportunities for future generations. Ever relevant, the reissue of his work in paperback by Harper Collins comes as a pleasant surprise. It’s a pity though that all three books have been reprinted in a tiny, non-reader friendly, compressed typeface.

(An edited version of these reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 16 October 2011)

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