Book Review : Red Jihad


Red Jihad - Author Sami Ahmed Khan

This book is yet another from the up-and-coming brigade of Indian Fiction writers, and is unique in its treatment. It is a refreshing change from the standard terror attack plot from Western authors that we are now beginning to get used to, which is a welcome development. That alone makes it worth a read; and if you add the other two factors - a total absence of vulgarity, and  an interesting plot - and you have yourself a good eminently readable book. It is not best in class - far from it; but it is a good book nonetheless.

THE CHARACTERS
Biplob Roy - The Prime Minister;; takes time - but takes over...
General Malhotra - Quick Reactions. Quicker Apologies
Basheer - Whose man is he anyway - ISI, or Terrorist? The Jihadi...
Agyaat - Just that. Agyaat - Unknown, yet known. The Red guy...
Lt General Asif Chowdhury - Misguided Patriot for the Pakistanis
Shahid Abbasi - Prime Minister of Pakistan, and Roomie of Biplob Roy...

THE PLOT
The plot is intriguing and absolutely unique in all the books I have read. I can only say that I am thankful that this is just a book! The story plays out in the future - 2014 - and is based on a joining of the Jihadi and the Maoist forces in India - a nightmare concept in itself. The target is, as usual India - in a roundabout way, involving launching an conventional Indian Missile on Pakistan from an Indian Missile Base, with an objective to stoke war in the 2 nations, and the release of pressure on Jihadis in Pakistan and Maoists in India. The basic premise, though objectionable in some way, is sound material for a thriller. The attack happens, and Pakistan, of course, responds. In the meantime, differences crop up between the Indian Prime Minister and The Chief Of Staff over how to deal with the attack on the missile base, leading to military rule in India. What happens next? How does the war go? Does India return to democratic rule, and if so, how? Read the book to find out

THE ANALYSIS
I found the characterisation to be slightly inconsistent with the roles the characters were being portrayed in, to be very honest. That formed the first significant gap in the book, in my opinion. A Chief Of Army Staff would not be on-again and off-again, and would be in control of himself - with General Malhotra is most decidedly not. The entire military take-over does not gel, and comes across as distinctly fictional and out-of-place. Not only that, it is inconceivable the an Army Chief would make so many errors of judgement (in the initial phase), and the Prime Minister doesnt in a security and defence situation. It should have been the other way around - with the Prime Minister advocating caution, and the Army Chied being all for securing the base at the fastest possible moment. An Army Chief, of all people, would be best aware of the dangers of leaving a missile base in enemy hands for any length of time! 

What was worse for me is that both the Army Chief and The Prime Minister have been shown losing control, which again does not fit in with the overall characterisation. Not only that, the stiunning reversal in the latter half of the book is also not in keeping with the first half, which confused the character plot to a great degree. It is almost as if we are seeing a different character altogether. 

The other thing that did not click for me was the process of the military takeover, and the ease with which it was accomplished without anyone asking any questions. Again, this does not gel with the scenario. Furthermore, it was totally unnecessary in the plot; the book could have been written without it. It was a needless transgression, and further, not in keeping with what we know of the Indian Army, as well as the Indian Defence setup, which makes a takeover virtually impossible. I cannot understand why this was included in the book! It has no place in it whatsoever. 

These 2 points apart, the book is a superb one. It is a fast paced adrenalin pumping read, totally devoid of vulgarity. with simple flowing language that is easy to comprehend. The war coverage is tremendous, and the war has been brought forward in both the strategic and tactical aspects with relative ease, which makes this part the saving grace of the book. The gripping narrative in this part goes a long way in helping you forget the gaffes in the first part of the book. The other saving grace is the overall concept - a coming together of the Jihadis and the Maoists, and the successful attempt to bring the 2 nations to war, with active collusion from Pakistani State and Non-State Actors. Read the book for these 2 points alone - you wont regret it! I rate it 2 stars out of 5 in the first half, and 4 stars out of 5 in the second half...

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