Written by the internationally acclaimed writer of a modern adaptation of the epic Ramayana, this story unfolds a spectacular and tremendously entertaining epic adventure, making the reader see a new universe and the way it works with new eyes.
This science fiction begins with a mysterious spacecraft appearing in the Earth’s atmosphere, causing the people to wonder where it could be going! At first seeming to come directly at Earth at a genial reducing velocity of 160,000 km/h, the satellite or the saffron starship continues to move obliquely away to take up its position at Sun-Earth LeGrangian Point, L5. Here the author comes into his element when describing the starship. He says that it is a “gigantic burnished sphere, brighter than a moon and more than twice as large.” Its overall hue is “saffron, the shade of a bindi dot on a Hindu married woman’s forehead and flecked through with sparkling golden motes, producing a rainbow-hued spectrum at certain angles, like the book cover of an Alistair Reynold’s science fiction novel.” He continues to describe it effusively thus: “The overall effect was mesmerising, resplendent, like a gigantic earring suspended in space from the invisible ear of an unseen, inscrutable, alien God. Jewel-perfect, effulgent with its halo-like corona of reflected sunlight, it compelled every pair of eyes, human and animal, to gaze upwards. Not since Skylab and the first moon landing had humanity watched the skies so respectfully.”
The story is about five ordinary people from vastly different regions of planet Earth – Santosh, a 10-year-old boy from a Mumbai slum with a passion for cricket, Bollywood and Ganpati Ganesh; Salim, a socialist trader from Birmingham and witness to the aftermath of the unjust ‘war on terror’; Ruth, a lesbian ship-welder from New Jersey fighting fiercely right-wing patriotism after losing the love of her life; Akechi, a rakish, self-obsessed mega star with a fondness for high living and beautiful gaijin women; and Yoshi, Akechi’s twin and fellow mangaka, a hermaphrodite consumed by a guilty secret about their Japanese father and Chinese mother and how they are brought together by the ancient Hindu God, Ganesh. After taking the reader on a quick hop around the world – Mumbai, Tokyo, Birmingham and New Jersey, the author makes the five protagonists fall into a deep sleep, impossible to be awakened due to same sort of higher power at work. They receive an invitation from Ganesh, the elephant-headed Hindu deity, who has arrived in the saffron craft hovering in orbit.
The author with a keen eye for detail and an unerring knack to bring the scene to reality with each location standing out distinctly in front of the reader’s eyes as he delves deeper and deeper into the narrative. Gods of War is a tour de force of imagination with the theme interwoven into the story in such a way as to bring it to life. It is an absorbing science fiction told by a crafty storyteller.
(Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110017.)