The Immortals of Meluha - Amish
I am simultaneously impressed and depressed by this book. On the one hand, it is almost blasphemous in its mortal depiction of gods, yet in a way that seems to underlie a believable reality that I could respect. Sadly, its poor rendition left me wanting. The series by Amish has been well touted, after all, it's not unlike a Chetan Bhagat story - simple, drab, yet extremely easy to read.
The storyline casts Shiva as a mortal from a dying tribe, driven to migrate to greener pastures. His clan is inducted into a seemingly ideal society (the Meluhas) that is being ravaged by "terrorist" attacks (way to go for current day relevance). In any case, due to prophecy, he is deified; a status he lives up to through noble deeds and intelligence. The story is a bit weakly fleshed, until the pseudo-climatic end wherein the existence and nature of said terrorists is revealed. The sequel ("The Secret of the Nagas") is written in a similar vein and continues to describe how Shiva leads the Meluha to exact justice upon the terrorists.
I appreciate the fact that Shiva is portrayed as a smart and capable leader, rather than someone for whom the right path appears in their dreams. I even appreciate that his deification is explained by reason that the masses need a figure head to rise up to, my own sentiments notwithstanding. Unfortunately, there are no other characters in the book that stand out enough to compare and contrast the protagonist - the perfect society seems devoid of natural leaders (it's no wonder they are facing problems) - it's like taking a close up picture of an cockroach and discerning if its a terrifying monster or simply a magnified insect? This lack of contrast, to me defines a unidimensional amateur book; a complaint I've had against books like the Inheritance Cycle as well. I distinctly remember writing a short book (about 25-30 pages) of similar literary calibre when I was a kid, and trust me, I am no child prodigy, especially when it comes to writing.
Ultimately though, the book is a fun read. It has some interesting, though Utopian, perspectives of Hindu rituals/social order, which make the book worth reading. Indeed, this was the reason my friend, Kirtika, recommended the book to me in the first place. My favourite example is that of societal creches for children1; children are taken from parents at infancy, and everyone is given a uniform access to good education, etc. Based on their performance in a series of standardised tests, they take up various vocations, ultimately leading to the various castes, shudra, vaishya, kshatriya and brahmin. I'd love to believe it was true, but skepticism guards my optimism.
Aldous Huxley also proposed something similar in his "Brave New World". I didn't recognise his prescience then, but I'm willing to put money on the fact that this will be the new social order in about 30 years.↩