Jonathan Stroud: Author of the Week

Jon

Jonathan Stroud, Author. Credit: Jonathan Stroud’s Facebook Page

Jonathan Stroud Fan Club is here. Please, sign up to begin!

That’s right, Jonathan Stroud, who will also be our Author of the Week! That’s right, six days and six book reviews! Because, as we all remember, on the 7th day, the Good Lord Above (TM) said we should rest.

Now Jonathan Stroud’s been a man about town sort of author, dabbled in a little bit of every kind of writing before he really hit his stride (in my professional opinion, as a world famous published author) with the Amulet of Samarkand and its introduction into the Bartimaeus series.

Meet Nathaniel who has been adopted into a Magician’s family. Magicians are conniving, backstabbing, ruthless people who rule over the Commoners through the use of their “magic,” which is actually enslavement of magical beings (read Demons, or the politically correct term: Spirits) who are forced to reside on earth and bound to the will of their master. Aside from the obvious political and social metaphors present, Jonathan Stroud actually does do some inventive and ingenious things (unlike, say, me:)

  • A Magical System Like No Other: There’s no better way to make a magic system stand out by casually subverting all the other systems out there. The magicians don’t do much themselves and the Spirits they command have an excellent mix of specific powers (shape changing for one) and other vague ones (like Detonations, Convulsions and Fluxes??) Don’t get me wrong; there is magic in this book, just not the way you expect it to be with wavy wands or powerful swords and flashy smoke or rabbits who disappear into hats.

Actually there might have been a rabbit who did disappear into a hat. We’ll get back to that.

  • The Alternate Universe Which We Aren’t Sure of When It Happens: Harry Potter is most definitely set in the 90s, and Percy Jackson inhabits a time-wrap universe where everything happens according to one structured book timeline with everything else fixed in the real world. The Bartimaeus Series on the other hand, has a lot of real stuff (like cars,) and hints and mentions of world history that Stroud’s made up to fit the story. England, for example is still an Empire with its colonies (who might be rebelling hehe…) and Europe has a bunch of Old-World Powers who try to be rivals of the British Empire (TM.) So we’re fairly grounded about what’s happening and kinda sure about when it’s happening but we have no concrete idea of what’s already happened: except through some tidbits that one can infer from if they’re really paying attention.

As they say: show, don’t tell.

  • Characters Whom You Want to Alternatively Root For And Punch in the Face: Stroud’s made some fantastic characters before, but the Bartimaeus Series had a whole gallery who stand out with elan. Boy magician Nathaniel, his master Underwood, his soon-to-be-nemisis Simon Lovelace, and mysterious rebel leader Kitty Jones alongside perhaps the wittiest character to grace the pages of a book ever: Bartimaeus himself. Wise-cracking, permanently offended and injured by his work, and relentlessly commentative, Bartimaeus is that little voice inside our head that makes thing bearable.

Except he’s, like, funnier.

The Bartimaeus Series needs to be read. By everyone. Ever. But I’ll settle for the 13-17 that is its target audience. But hey – don’t let me convince you. I’ll let Stroud do some convincing of his own.

That did it. I’d gone through a lot in the past few days. Everyone I met seemed to want a piece of me: djinn, magicians, humans…it made no difference.I’d been summoned, manhandled, shot at, captured, constricted, bossed about and generally taken for granted. And now, to cap it all, this bloke is joining in too, when all I’d been doing was quietly trying to kill him.

— Bartimaeus, The Amulet of Samarkand (Book One of the Bartimaeus Series)

A Must Laugh – Book Review: The Goat, The Sofa And Mr. Swami

Note: The following content is not owned by this blog and is being used for college project, non commercial purposes only. The original review can be found here, by Nilanjana Bhattacharya. 

This post will be taken down shortly after completion of the project. No copyright infringement intended. 


the goat the sofa and swami

The Goat, the Sofa and Mr. Swami, R. Chandrasekhar. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Warning: be prepared to laugh!

The Goat, the Sofa and Mr. Swami is your quintessential Jeeves and Wooster story, peppered with clever references to Yes Minister. deliciously told—in a modified Indian setting, of course—with clever jibes and digs, often with no attempt at even trying to mask the intent on the part of the author. And once you learn to ignore the occasional attempts at being too clever, this book is a sheer treat for a lazy Sunday afternoon. The story of the goings on in Indian politics makes for a zany, laugh-a-minute, book.

The plot is complex and convoluted, with a million subplots and characters and conspiracy theories. Mr Motwani is the old, fat, lustful, and cunning Prime Minister of India,(*cough*Vajpayee*cough*). His personal assistant, Mr. Swami, I.A.S., lets the Prime Minister get into his own messes and, benevolently and calmly, proceeds to extricate him from the same, all the while working towards some personal advancement or the other. The tables are turned once in a while, when Mr. Swami is caught in positions that only the resourcefulness of the Prime Minister can save him from, but on the whole, the entire plot follows this Insert-X-in-Soup-let-Y-Save-the-Day pattern. The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Shah, has invited himself to an India-Pakistan cricket match series and the entire Indian administration must deal with this whole operation, fraught with suspicion and antagonism and media misinterpretations and the vested interests of all involved. The U.S.P. of the book, however, lies not the story, but in putting up a comic and intricately etched portrait of the hypocrisy and self-service that is the administration of the Republic of India.

What occasionally mars the charm of the book is an attempt to be too clever and risqué on the part of the author. The opening chapter talks about the old Prime Minister enjoying a digitally-modified naked actress dancing to a popular Bollywood number on his V.C.R. and, um, pleasuring himself. Do we really want to know that? Imagine if Wodehouse had talked about Bertie’s sex life—this is just as out-of-place and sort of makes you draw back in distaste. Then there are these convoluted sentences with failed attempts at sarcasm which could have been done away with. If someone had been there to tell the author gently that “it’s a fine piece, stop now, don’t ruin it”, the book might have been better off.

Ultimately, however, these minor glitches aside, the book is an engaging, hilarious and unputdownable read. Original? Perhaps not in content, perhaps not in style per se, but combine the two, and you get a unique blend of humour and insight. You laugh at the gags, you laugh at 15 states rioting because the cuisine of two other states have been chosen to cater to the Pakistani Prime Minister, you laugh at the Kaveri water dispute coming up when the dance of one state is chosen over the other for the cultural show, you laugh at every other ridiculous situation the Indian bureaucracy throws up—and yet, a worry and a sense of gloom eats away at the back of your mind, like a nagging headache that you just can’t wish away.

You laugh and wonder how long you will laugh at the same things, how long you can sit back and take all this and just have a few laughs as your consolation prize. You wonder how long you can laugh away the corruption that pervades every level of the administration; you wonder how long you can make cynical and clever remarks on the partisan nature of the states in the Republic; you wonder how long you can overlook the very basic lack of a national feeling that is eating away at the core of our country. If a book can give you stitches in the stomach and plant a deep sense of discomfort in your mind, I think it is an epic success.

Fifty Shades of Grey: Inexplicably Popular

Fifty_Shades_of_Grey_movie

So recently, I decided to give Fifty Shades of Grey a go, since my friend dared me that I wouldn’t be able to get through it. She was wrong by challenging me, because I DID get through it, even it damn near killed me doing so.

In retrospect:

Image

I know: there are tons and tons of bad reviews for the book out there so I decided not to really review the book but to try and deconstruct it a little bit.

The thing is, I actively encourage people to read this book. Why? Because people (especially writers) need to realize how easy it is to fall into a rut. I have no doubt that E L James thought she was being absolutely brilliant by writing a book about BDSM in Fifty Shades of Grey, and to some extent she was. She just had to screw it up by adding annoying one dimensional characters, a completely unrealistic plot and an even worse ending. Oh and then adding two more books to it.

Image

Most people discount this book because it came out of fanfiction. Trust me, though it may seem otherwise, fanfiction does more good than harm, and Fifty Shades of Grey (even though I would prefer to call it a dirty rag) wouldn’t even be considered as good fanfiction. It would be called “fluff” which people read to make themselves feel happier about life.

Any story has two, very basic, properties which attracts an audience. First is the technique of writing. The second, is the idea. In this regard, Fifty Shades… fails miserably in both. There are authors whose technique is so mind-blowing that they can make a book about the history of Shakespeare seem fun. (Bill Bryson – my hero.)

Image

Then, there are other authors whose technique is passable but make up for it by having good, tight, plots and believable characters- naming Rick Riordan as one. For a guy who writes kid stories, he’s held my attention from the tenth grade all the way up to college.

Image

So how has Fifty Shades… failed in both and yet found such a huge demand?

That is what I find inexplicable. I just don’t get it. I’m sure that there is some deep psychological explanation because there sure isn’t an obvious one.

So, if you’re an aspiring writer, go ahead and read this book to see how writing can go so wrong but just don’t waste money by buying it. I only condone wasting time. Definitely not hard-earned money.

Just know what you’re getting yourself into though.