Thursday, 13 November 2014

Kafka On The Shore - Review

AUTHOR: Haruki Murakami
ISBN: 978-0-099-45832-6
GENRE: Speculative Fiction


Kafka Tamura runs away from home at fifteen, under the shadow of his father's dark prophecy. 

The ageing Nakata, tracker of lost cats, who never recovered from a bizarre childhood affliction, finds his pleasantly simplified life suddenly turned upside down.

As their parallel odysseys unravel, cats converse with people; fish tumble from the sky; a ghost-like pimp deploys a Hegel-spouting girl of the night; a forest harbours soldiers apparently un-aged since World War II. There is a savage killing, but the identity of both victim and killer is a riddle- one of many which combine to create an elegant and dreamlike masterpiece.


You read one book by the author; you either get hooked to them or vow to not read them again. Murakami has me mystified, my first was Norwegian Wood and this is my second. To say that both the books are out of the world and amazing would be an understatement. Partly because they both are so very contrasting in the way they've been written. The former having a taste of realistic-ness while this book is all metaphysical, illusory and self-bounding transporting you to a world of dreams.

"Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.”  - Kafka on the Shore

Kafka on the Shore follows the parallel plot that moves towards a common goal at the same time, interlinked together. It's a story of a 15-year old teenage boy Kafka Tamura hailing from Nakano Ward who runs away from home from his self-absorbed father to Takamatsu, Shikoku; seeking shelter in a quiet private library. At the same time an ageing old not so bright man named Nakata who has the unique ability to converse with cats, goes on a mission to finding a missing cat and eventually predicts fishes and leeches falling from the sky. Weird isn't it?

The novel is inspired by the Oedipus mythology, or rather the dark Oedipal Curse that Kafka's father inflicts on him. 

"The term Oedipus complex (or, less commonly, Oedipal complex) denotes the emotions and ideas that the mind keeps in the unconscious, via dynamic repression, that concentrates upon a child's desire to have sexual relations with the parent of the opposite sex ."

Like every other Murakami novel there is beer and sex with the addition of blood, lots of blood in this one. The journey of Kafka and how he shifts from his conscious to unconscious mind with a lot of theories, philosophies, Japanese literature the Soseki haiku's  and concerto music like Schubert and Schumann accompanying us. It takes you to a magical realm full of depth that forces you to think.

The best thing about the novel is the way it is written, it flows seamlessly transporting you to a land of illusions and dreams. It's compelling in the most primal form and pulls you within. And despite being so addictive you cannot read this in one sitting, you need to read re-read and sometimes take a break. 

Now comes the cons, they are not cons in the real sense but they are, if you know what I mean. The book is full of riddles. No doubt riddles are fascinating but these they left me in a lurch. An excerpt from the writer's own words goes as,

"In an interview posted on his English language website, Murakami says that the secret to understanding the novel lies in reading it several times: "Kafka on the Shore contains several riddles, but there aren't any solutions provided. Instead, several of these riddles combine, and through their interaction the possibility of a solution takes shape. And the form this solution takes will be different for each reader. To put it another way, the riddles function as part of the solution. It's hard to explain, but that's the kind of novel I set out to write".
A complex novel no doubt, there are things that I re-read (I could not read the whole novel again 505 pages you see). It's the kind of novel that stays with you, for a long long time. 
A must read if you love quality fiction !

RATING: 9.5/10
PRICE: Rs. 349
BINDING: Paperback
PAGES: 505

Sunday, 2 November 2014

God is a Gamer - Review

AUTHOR: Ravi Subramanian
ISBN: 978-0-143-42139-9
GENRE: Bitcoin Thriller

EXCERPT: (Credits: Goodreads)

What happens when you cross gamer, banker, politician and terrorist with virtual money? 

Aditya runs a gaming company that is struggling to break even. A banker slips off a
highrise building, plunging to her death. The finance minister has made some promises
that he is finding hard to keep. The LTTE has unleashed terror in America that sends
the FBI on a wild goose chase, bringing them to Mumbai.

Enter Varun, parttime drug dealer and fulltime genius. He turns around the gaming
company before disaster strikes. Meanwhile, the investigators plunge headlong into
the shady world of bitcoins and the Dark Net, websites that only exist for illegal
transactions—drugs, sex and money.

God is a Gamer is a world where money means nothing, martyrs are villains, predators are prey, assassination is taught by the ancient Greeks, and nothing is as it seems. 


So I've been on a reading spree or rather I still am, three novels at once and this I had to complete within a week's time. I was worried even before the book arrived from Blogadda "Will I or Won't I be able to finish it?" was the question of the hour. But Alas! here I am a week later penning down this review.

The tagline of the book goes as, "Is Revenge a Crime?" and a heavy bet is placed on money. Join the two together and the instant reaction is god please let it not be another mundane money laundering fiction. Good thing is it's not. It is surprisingly refreshing with a mix of corporate conversations with a blend of complicated liaisons, multinational banks, the US Senator and Indian politicians and the crux of it all - Bitcoins in other words Virtual Money. You're in for a ride, a total roller coaster.

As like all other books of the author, this one too follows the parallel plotline. Each chapter is different and you're like what's the connection? why the sudden jump? But then suddenly when you don't even expect they unite. The best part being despite having multiple characters like a thriller usually does, it is not at all confusing. No ambiguity towards the character development nor termination.

The emotions run heavy in this one, the family bonds both loose and tightly bound are explored. At least I was questioning myself how much do things change when one comes to power, be it some change in how we see our loved ones or how the world sees us. Does being a powerful person in a top notch organization or the government really gives you freedom to do anything or it curbs it as your every move is scrutinized in the eyes of opposition and the media.  

Unlike many thrillers that are poorly researched or a complete new set of fiction set up is created, God is a Gamer is wholly researched right from WikiLinks to Satoshi Nakamoto the said founder of bitcoins. 

There are names like DDOS attack, phishing scams, firewalls, malware attacks and so on. I literally remembered my third year project on Intrusion Detection Systems and Honeypots. And I wondered, somethings that are mentioned are usually not taken lightly especially if the organization is big, there is a whole IT department dedicated to it. So, was is it a loophole or done on purpose for the story to shape up the way it did, is still a question mark to me.

So the end? Well read it to find out what happens with all the picturesque build up in the most fascinating way. No spoilers here, no way. I loved the book, makes me want to recommend it to everyone who loves reading. (Okay I did recommend it to a lady in the train yesterday, and she said she'll surely check it out.)

RATING: 8/10
PRICE: Rs. 299
BINDING: Paperback
PAGES: 310

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