Monday, 4 February 2013

Book Review: The Terrorist

This is a book that delves into the world of pain, of misguided anger, of isolation, of decisions - right and wrong, of guilt, of societal insensitivity, of broken relationships and their impact on children. It will leave you seething with anger - sometimes at society, sometimes at Pakistan, and sometimes at the stupidity of parents and relatives. There are no stereotypes and no role models, no one is a clear hero. A stark and grey world has been created - which all of us can easily identify with. You may be offended at some passages and events, you may be offended by some portrayal of India but for the most part you cannot deny that this is unerringly close to reality...

The Characters

Murad: An Intelligent Idiot with a habit of making the wrong decision - all through life
Captain Suri: Angry Young Man; with a baggage from the past
Ashwini Kapur: A good man; but one who knows that the good sometimes have to be bad...
Brigadier Mir: Wants revenge for Kargil; out for Blood. Indian Blood

The Plot
This is a story of 2 men : one an officer of the special forces of the Indian Army, and the other a terrorist. The officer is a man with a disturbed past; the terrorist is an Indian Muslim who has turned against India at  perceived injustices that he has to face as a result of his religion, That in itself is powerful stuff; I have to admire the author's courage for penning this. While both are victims of circumstances, both react in different fashion; one gets the support of his friend who turns it around for him while the other gets misled into a path of crime and terror; into the hands of the enemy nation. The book traces the lives of both these people, and the circumstances that defined the later part of their lives - and how they turned into what they became - Captain Suri a top-notch special forces commando, who has displayed reckless courage and superb skills; Murad a twisted and misled idiot who destroys his whole life - and of several hundred innocents - on the path to becoming one of the most feared terrorists from Pakistan. Murad is eventually asked to lead a daring attack on India; but things are moving too fast for him - leading to a confrontation with Captain Suri...

The Analysis
From a patriotic perspective, there is plenty in this book that is offensive. Loads of it, in fact.. But before you condemn it, ask yourself one question: examine your own internal attitudes before condemning anything or anyone in the book or the author. The increasing stereotyping and intolerance from both Hindu and Muslim segments of our population is a matter of fact; that is undeniable. The Shah Rukh Khan incident is still fresh in public memory. The book examines this reality of rhetoric in painstaking detail, and its impact on the minority community. This will bring a lump to your throat. However, the book takes this to extremes and frankly creates a scary picture of Indian society that is just not true. Yes, there is a chasm that has come in - but things are not as bad as has been portrayed. Some of the scenes are simply unbelievable. What is more disturbing is that nowhere is this examined as to why this has come about; by doing this, a superb opportunity  to make this book a truly class book has been missed, as opposed to the very good rating that it is getting from me now. 

The book is a fast-paced thriller and proceeds at break-neck speed. It has been put together extremely well, and makes for a fast read. It is not light reading; not by any means, But it is not a heavy and boring read either. The intermingling of emotional content with the terror background, as well as the build-up of the principal characters through their life story is a touch of sheer class: you actually get into the skin of the character and can almost foretell their response. In other words, characterisation is truly top-notch, well defined and precise. Happily, there are no expletives and bad words, which is a major plus - given that several new authors seem to believe that the F word and constant swearing make for good content. 

It proceeds rapidly through the defining events of their respective lives, and traces the character responses of Suri and Murad. You read with distaste and chagrin at the increasing isolation of Murad, and wonder at his weakness and his character flaw that allows him to succumb; you cannot but feel angry at his capitulation to the wiles of the Pakistanis. You feel the rage as the gents from across the border suborn people; you are painted a vivid picture of a confused and angry young man. On the other hand, you get to see the courageous and righteous Captain Suri who will work your way into your hearts with his nature and his fighting spirit; you empathise with him as he struggles to come to terms with his past. Like Murad, he, too, gets hit by circumstances beyond his control and gets victimised; not only that, unlike Murad, Suri has had an unhappy childhood leaving an indelible mark on his mind and his nature. Suri has to fight both the circumstances as well as his own nature and ghosts from his past. 

The second half of the book is about the disentangling of the terror plot, and in this part - it is a work of art. There is no emotional baggage in this section; positions have now been hardened. The issue at hand is now merely the detection and the prevention of a terror plot. It is almost as if there are 2 books that have been merged into one. The changeover has been skilfully achieved, with an effortless and smooth change from character development to a fast-paced and massive detective cum thriller novel. The hero and his team members and bosses and the antogonist hurtle towards the final confrontation as the Indian team tries everything to save India and her citizens from yet another terror plot. Of particular note is the way intrigue, political games and strategy has been used to diffuse the plot; this makes for interesting reading, as what is unfolding is not just bullets and gore, but a well-thought out counter-strategy to this huge threat from across the border... all in all, a book that must be read!

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