Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Marvel's "Avengers: Age of Ultron" - Summer 2015 is going to be scorcher!!

The world is going to pay. May 2015 the demonic robot Ultron unleashes destruction and mayhem and our superheroes may be hard-pressed to really save the world. Like Thor-2: Dark World, this second movie that is bringing together all our beloved super-heroes is darker, grimmer and brutal. We knew it was all building to this with Captain America: Winter Soldier being the best outing from Marvel till date.

I got some comments:

- Mark "Hulk" Ruffalo really seems to be having a rough time. The superhero who pummeled "puny God" Loki like he was stone-washing him, looks lost and confused. I wonder why?

- Tony Stark aka Ironman fucks up big time. Ultron seems to be using one of his suits to go about his dance of destruction.

- Did Loki really die? in Thor-2 ?

- I think I saw the Twins from Cap-2 make their appearance. Hooray !! Quicksilver and Scarlett Witch, but makes you wonder if they are the good guys or the bad ones? End credits of Cap-2 really didn't give us a clue.

Whatever be it, this coming summer is going to be super scorcher!! Bring it on, Ultron. We got faith. We got the Avengers!!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Happy New Year – The SRK Diwali Bollywood Blockbuster. Seriously?

So it happened again this year. 

The yearly pilgrimage where we dutifully buy tickets and trudge to the big screens to pay homage to the King Khan, Shahrukh Khan. His 2014 movie, Happy New Year directed by Farah Khan got released today and Howzah! We were in on the celebrations. First day first show. Literally. 10 ‘oclock on the dot. A 2-day 1200 KM drive back – and – forth from Madurai didn’t deter our spirits. This was a yearly pilgrimage and we would never miss the darshan.

Now with Farah Khan at the helm of the affairs, we really weren’t expecting this to fire up our brain synapses. We were fully prepared to leave it at home. We knew it is a heist movie. Not an Ocean’s Eleven. More like a Charlie’s Chalees Chor. You know what to expect. A fun-filled ride. Glitzy songs. Some slap-stick bro-code humour between the male leads. [ Apart from SRK, it boasts of at least three more : Abhishek Bachan the drunkard Tapori with a penchant to puke, yuck I know! Sonu Sood the hunky slab of meat who elicits the winky “Call-Me” offers from chicks all around, Boman Irani a fifty-year old parsi who babbles like a five-year old and lives under the thumb of his fiendish mother] The mandatory SRK pose. And a healthy dose of over-the-top patriotism. ( Hey remember Main Hoon Na? I loved that nonsense!] Now is that too much to expect?

The movie delivers on all these fronts. in excess! So before I get carried away, a look at the wafer-thin plotline. Chandramohan something something – known far and wide as Charlie ( Don’t ask me. Farah’s got this thing about “Engleesh” names.) is a pit-fighter who in spite of being the boston university “topper” cannot earn money in any legit jobs. Because his father is a thief (And the stigma spread across the world? So a US topper couldn’t really land a legit job? Phbbbbttt…) and Charlie thinks he is a loser. In fact he has a habit of breaking things down to “two things” [ Do cheezein like those 2X2 matrix by the McKinsey consultants] There are only two types of people. Winners and Losers. And that Fate is an unfaithful mistress.

Now – Charlie is hell-bent on removing that stigma of being a thief’s son. An injustice dealt out to his father who was deceived by this character called Charan Grover ( played by a menacing Jackie Shroff) that resulted in this whole screwed-up life. And Charlie has been planning for eight years for his revenge. An opportunity arises when diamonds worth more than three hundred crore dollars in the grey market are to be stored in Atlantis, Dubai under Grover’s safekeeping.

Charlie puts together a crack-team.

- A safe-cracker specialist who thinks he is a chick magnet ( Boman Irani is wasted in this epic role)
- A hacker boy-genius ( Vivaan Shah. Is this the boy’s debut? Seriously what a launch vehicle! I cannot wait to hear what Naseeruddin Shah had to comment about this movie!)
- An ex-army bomb-squad specialist ( Sonu Sood. He is also called Jack. Remember Farah’s obsession with Engleesh? Yeah. And hell, those pecks had more screen time and dialogues than him the actor. )
- And topped off by a street-side tapori whose only role is to impersonate the magnate’s son. (“Aila! Double Role. Ackha Same-to-Same! Just like the movies”)

Now the only role left on the team is that of the bomb-shell. Bring in bar-dancer Mohini of the twinkling eyes and fetish for “Engleesh” ( Deepika Padukone with the ghosts of Chennai Express still inside her has got a weird accent again. And this time – vacillates with consummate ease between the vampy smoky hot seductress to the large-bindi-on-forehead and nose-ring-waali small-town girl with dreams of starting a “dense” school for the unprivileged. Seriously?)

After this – the movie is a confused riot between a lot of “nonsense ki raat” dance routines and a badly executed onscreen parody of English heist movies. There are scenes that put you to sleep out of sheer boredom while some, rare and far between are downright gems. This was probably Farah Khan’s pet project to get SRK back into her camp after Akshay Kumar tarnished her filmmaker status. And it definitely is a tribute in many ways to the romantic hero of our generation. SRK and others mouth dialogues from all his previous movies with random disdain. [ Deepika’s “Yeh Saath Minute” was definitely a killer ] And hell – what is with the fetish for male torsos? Starting from SRK’s eight-pack and two-nipple close-up shots in the hilarious intro to Sonu Sood’s sculpted pecks. Whoa!

As far as performances go, well – SRK sleep-walks, hams away to glory and even gets a shot at talking about “India of today”. It’s a tribute to the man after all and he just hogs the camera. Deepika Padukone has done this role a zillion times before. The small-town girl who acts like a Bazaaroo aurat with her itsy-bitsy clothes and big ambitions. Oh if you were wondering what her role was for the entire heist operation, I still haven’t figured that out. She does the odd-dance routines, swings around the pole and generally sets things on fire. The others, well – not really worth mentioning. I felt bad for Abhishek Bachan. He gets to play a double role, he is arguably the best dancer of the group with his signature “snake” moves and actually has pretty much the best dialogue of the movie. (“Nandu Bhidee…Dimaag ke Keedee!” I think we will have kids screaming this dialog with relish every time he comes back on the big screen. Which I think will be a long time now.)

Songs except for Manwa Laage ( another lovely song by Shreya Goshal!) were forgettable. The dance – oh my effing gawd – was an assault on the senses. The character quirks were terrible. Puking violently? Reall? Did Sajid Khan suggest that?

Anyways – high on the gloss-and-masala entertainment-factor, the movie is like the waves. With its fair share of lows and highs, it recedes quickly from the memory. A botched-up narrative that mixes world-dancing championship with a diamond-heist, this movie is certainly not going to be the one that people remember Shahrukh for.  If you love SRK, then you might not walk out. But barely so.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Intern's Handbook by Shane Kuhn

The Intern's Handbook by Shane Kuhn came to my notice after Mihir from FBC praised the book highly. His recommendations typically are spot-on and I didn't hesitate when I got a deal on this one.

So yet another first-person narrative thriller that deals with white-collar assassinations using interns. Aha...After Boy Nobody  (reviewed here ) I think I see a pattern here. Nevertheless, the cover ( Yo! Creative Genius You!) drew me in and the premise was the perfect hook. Use the non-paid persona non-grata interns - who by the way are worse than dead flies on the wall when it comes to a corporate cultures in NYC chockablock with Ivy league heavyweights fighting for a foot-space - to slowly interject into your corporate honcho targets' office and then finish them off in unsuspecting manners that smack of their most public enemies' signature kill. Yeah. That is what the book is about.

The novel actually reads like a bible or a rough field guide for survival for the first-timers, still wet under their ears who are joining this shadowy org called, ironically enough, Human Resources Inc. - Most of them in their early teens trained and polished to be cold calculating killers by the time they hit puberty to take out targets in their high profile offices. HR Inc. is run by this enigmatic person called Bob - who is now setting up our narrator John for his last assignment before the grand send-off. Gold watch and pay-checks and the perks. John is twenty-five. A ripe old age in this profession as he claims and which most of the first-timers would never see. But also an age that clearly demarcates him as a veteran for this "Intern" shit and he clearly is anxious to get out into the world as a "legit". And as all best-laid plans go, it goes the way of getting blown apart to smithereens.

The last assignment requires John to get into Newyork's most prestigious law firm but the target has not been identified yet. And Alice - a Junior Associate with the firm gets the hots for him. And on expected lines, complications creep in for the man who cannot feel "love". And the mission gets shot to hell.

The novel reads like a runaway freight train - with all the finesse of one as well if I may add. Action is explosive - punctuated annoyingly by John's expert comments on the human anatomy or bullet trajectory - but nevertheless relentless and slick. Like a movie. [ big surprise! 'Coz Shane is by profession a scriptwriter/filmmaker]

First person narratives are tricky. They slow-burn into an explosive entertaining voice or start out too eager and fizzle out to die soon. All is based on the character's voice. John here is an snarky, self-obsessed and cynical young man - sure and he claims his non-existent childhood for him being "love-less" and devoid of emotions. Unfortunately for me, John never did strike the chord. and that was what kept me from enjoying this book too much. The others? Well, not too many. Bob and Alice are the names that come out [ Yeah - there had to be a girl right? ] but in the end I was made to desperately wish that there were chapters dedicated to Alice's view-point. sigh.

The plot is wafer-thin but the gargantuan twist that hits you at the end - is unexpected and probably worth the wait but the book is what it claims to be. Fun, light read that delivers. For fans of Allen Zadoff's Boy Nobody series and maybe the Dexter series by Jeff Lindsay - this is an instant fast-food to be gobbled up in a flash. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Wolf's Hour by Robert McCammon

Shame on me that I've never read one of the greatest masters of speculative fiction - Robert McCammon. The Swan Song is perhaps his best known work - apparently rivaling The Stand (Stephen King - will always be the greatest storyteller ever for me!) as one of the best written post-apocalyptic literary works but The Wolf's Hour recounting the pulse-pounding harrowing adventures of a master-spy behind enemy lines during WW-II - who is also a werewolf - is so much pure pulp fun that it's irresistible and should count right up there on the top of the shelf!

Robert's portrayal of Michael Gallatine - super-spy enlisted with the British Secret Service and also Werewolf - as a powerful Captain America pitted against the demented power-crazed absolutely evil Nazis - reads like an epic. Nail-biting action, heady adventure, underplayed romance, lots of sex and hell, brilliant behind-the-lines espionage. It's got it all and Robert brings it all together in a book set against the perils of a world-war with the fate of the Allied Normandy invasion hanging on the courage and deeds of this super-spy werewolf.

You might be tempted to dismiss the premise as pulpy and seemingly comical & impossible - rolling in the tale of a werewolf into WW-II super-spy story. But trust me, the character of Michael is so powerful and portrayed with enough grounded realism that you cannot help but relate. Michael Gallatine - born Mikhail Gallatinov into an affluent Russian family - loses his family during the bloody russian revolution - only to gain another in the wilderness. A pack of werewolves that gradually becomes his own as he realizes the changes inside of him. The intermittently placed flashbacks give us a lot of detail into the man/wolf that Michael grows into. Conflicted and vulnerable with an impeccable sense of honor and righteousness, Michael slowly realizes over time that he is the answer to that question which his mentor and Godfather asked him repeatedly.
What is a lycanthrope to God?  The answer as Michael realizes deep into the book drenched in enemy's blood, is that he is a God's avenger.  [ "Hell had shining green eyes and a sleek, muscular body covered with grey-streaked, black hair. Hell had white fangs and hell moved on all fours." ]

After having lost a good friend in Egypt during the North Africa raids between the Allied powers and Germany, Michael is lying low in his Wales countryside home. But new intel talks of a super-weapon being developed by the nazis in secret and the whole Allied Invasion of the German coast of Normandy hangs in balance. And thus the fate of the whole world war-II. Michael comes out of retirement and takes up this new mission - starting with rendezvous with a double-agent in the Nazi-occupied Paris to extract the intel. The mission leads him deep behind the enemy lines - racing and dodging bullets and bombs on the streets of Paris to the country-sides of Berlin and then onto a god-forsaken cold stormy island off the coast of Norway.

McCammon is a masterful writer of the suspense and horror - to which we are treated more than once as he pulls Michael through impossible situations with the odds stacked high against him. absolutely crackling story-telling - often enough veering into territories of disbelief - making me shout, "No way" but seeped in enough realism to make me want to believe. it's a tight dance but McCammon pulls it with effortless elan. It's bloody downright entertaining and that is the high point of the story.

The narrative split into several parts - each detail one mission and also alternates with Michael's past ( which too by the way is riddled with masterful suspense and enough pulsating adventure to read as a standalone!) all leading to the overall mission of uncovering what is that the evil Nazis have been planning to contain the Allied invasion. Funnily enough - McCammon brings in actual historical figures like Hitler and Churchill into the narrative but all goes with the flow.

Overall - a harrowing masterful tale of the world-war espionage that features a british superspy who is also a werewolf - is riveting storytelling at it's best. guaranteed to thrill your senses if you like those war-stories. If you are of the new generation and think Inglorious Bastards is the best world-war movie ever made, then heck no. this book is way more fantastic! It's pulp and it's pure gold-rated fun. Go ahead read this book!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Interstellar : Nolan's Epic Next Movie. We take to the Stars!!

A Christopher Nolan movie is always a gala event. And this time, it's E-P-I-C. Giving new meaning to that word yet. Nolan takes us to the stars and galaxies - in search of a new habitable world when Earth is facing extinction.

Starring Academy Award Winner Mathew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway and Of Course, Michael Caine - This movie is on my highly anticipated top 10 list. And Hans Zimmer's music builds up that spine-tingling tension as to what this team of intrepid explorers will find out there in the Galaxy - with the future of human race riding on them.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Lucy: Luc Besson tries being intellectual and fails miserably.

A while ago, there came out a movie called Lucy - starring Scarlett Johanssen directed by the French director Luc Besson, known for his action-super movies like Transporter and a certain series in the 90's called La Femme Nikita.

With the trailer released, we get glimpses of Her Hotness, Scarlett kicking some ass. Albeit a little spaced off like she's completely zoned-out of worldly things. We get excited, lick our lips in anticipation and then dutifully get down to watching the movie.

But soon - the touted pseudo science-fictional thriller - exploring themes of half-understood evolutionary science, pulp-super heroine - comes across as a treatise in Luc Besson's amateurish ambitions at being intellectually towering - thus becoming a little boring. Falling half-way between nowhere and a space-void. But hey, the movie is still fun if you were to ignore the mumbo-jumbo of the human evolutionary arcs and primal apes and planetary movements. [ which trust me, is kind of hard coz the last few moments of the movie where teh threads are being tied up - we are left painfully blinking at the breakneck pace of things going insane and unraveling oh-so-bloody-fast.]

So Lucy - is a student in Taiwan who gets "tricked" by her boyfriend into delivering a mystery briefcase to "Mr.Jang"- who turns out to be an evil drug lord. True to frame, Choi-Min Sik turns out to be the epitome of mindless evil. His first frame being him cleaning up blood from his hands meting out punishment to some hapless fellow.

Turns out the briefcase contains a gooey blue crystalline drug, called CPH4 - apparently the synthetic version of what mothers secrete for their fetuses. Aha! and but of course, the helpless Lucy is soon a "mule" to transport these packets sealed into her intestinal linings. One thing leads to another - goons paw at Lucy who "is not the mood right now" and soon gets man-handled. read kick in the pit of the stomach - that leads to the drug packet bursting.

What follows is probably the highlight of the action sequences in the movie. Lucy transforms as the powerful drug consumes, subsumes and completely eats up her brain cells. Lending her - bang on! - amazing super powers. She can now tap into more than 10% of her brain's capabilities.

And that basically means she zombies out. No emotion, no feeling. Brain is in overdrive - as is ominously portrayed by regular intervals of Flashing Percentage numbers telling us how divine she is.

While all this is happening - there is the laconic soporific drawl of Research Scientist, Professor Norman - Morgan Freeman again wasted - who talk about evolution through lurid pictures of wild animals coupling and hurricanes rippling through coastal areas. He conjectures about a person in control of more than 10-15% of brain-space - could be manipulating time and space.

Lucy proves it all right - turning into the "witch" - who can read thoughts, travel through space, communicate through radio channels, tap into video phones and ...well..just about do anything.
Looks like Luc Besson wanted a better movie that explores the potentials of Limitless. While yes, Scarlett is an improvement on Bradley Cooper, I think Luc is better off giving us blizzards of uzi-machine guns and harrowing car chases. Just for a formality. he does give us these action set pieces but with Super woman Lucy being pretty much invincible and now literally a god - all are pointless.

We mourn the loss of pulp action. We are left with a lot of pseudo intellectual mumbling around
time being the basis of existence and are left to watch bewildered - our brains filling up with voids the size of the crashing asteroids on the screen - as Lucy now at close to 100% is travelling time and space uninhibited.

My synapses were fried. I think I was left with less than 10% of my brain capabilities after this experience. Lucy I know the intentions were noble - to serve us with your unimaginable Yoda-like mastery over nature, knowledge and all that - thus to roll the evolutionary arc forwards for our pitiable human race. But hey - Just leave us kids alone will you? Didn't you hear? We don't need no education. We don't need no thought control.  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Sales Room by R T Manu Ramesh.

Disclaimer: I got a copy of this book from the publishers on behest of the author for an honest review of the same.

So when Manu first reached out to me, asking me to review a “humorous novel about a failing start-up based in Bangalore”, three words struck me. Humorous. Start-Up. Bangalore. How could I refuse?
A very quick racy read – giving us a tongue-firmly-in-cheek look (or “thumb-firmly-up-the-ass, as the protagonist of Sales Room is wont to say) about a start-up based in Bangalore doomed to failure. The Sales Room brings to fore “all the action inside the ‘sales room’ – a no-holds barred parda-fash (the expose for those not familiar with hindi) and a behind-the-scenes look at all the levers and triggers that work behind running a start-up – all this from the scathing sarcastic point of view of a 26-year old engineer – with B-School aspirations – and a firmly unforgiving outlook on all the malpractices that keep sales in an IT Firm afloat.

Chock-a-block with astute observations about the sales process – especially all the dirty secrets in the cupboards that come pouring out in buckets-full - Manu probably bases this on an auto-biographical sketch. But those hanky-panky idiosyncrasies that lend colour to all the familiar characters we would typically see in an IT firm is a riot to read about. His writing lends them credence, a three-dimensional realism that resonates with the readers.

So the hoi-polloi who make up the general populace at an IT Firm? You know them. You walk past their cubicles. You see them puffing away at that small stub of a cigarette like its going to spark one last innovation that will change their lives. You seen them slink away from the coffee machine furtively avoiding their bosses eyes. Manu here presents them in full techni-colour. Complete with footnotes:

The one-track mind boss obsessed with positioning his products as “premium” in spite of a clear lack of quality and his hatred of B-school grads bordering on psychosomatic antipathy and his blind buff confidence that often lands him in a soup. Check.

The hyperventilating investor boss as the “Face” of the disgruntled senior management who loves venting out his frustration of being bossed over by his wife at home – by screaming at everyone else. Yes. Based out of the land of dreams, America. And screaming down the hierarchy at the “bloody” Indians for being non-competent at selling and thus making the investors some money. Check.
The multi-ethnic dreamy writer who heads the marketing division and can’t wait to get out – frustrated by the pseudo-intellectualism around him and the constant bull-shit piled on by the stupid boss. Check.

The engineering head who doesn’t know his C from A and B. [ For the non-engineers, C is a programming language. Yes. It is.] and who gets by clearly by a term, we corporates call “ass-licking”. Check.

The frustrated whiney bottomless pit of neediness Engineer. Who loves his rum too much. And who is probably the only exception to the “Chain of Screaming” [ ie the chain is broken at him and doesn’t get passed around anymore] – Check.

Throw in a couple of ladies. Yeah. The Good looking dumb chick with no lines who keeps the morale up in the office. And of course the bimbo with bazookas to keep something else up. Check.

And top it all off with the narrator. A twenty-six year old “tam-brahm” vying for an admission in the top 10 B-schools of the world and now back for the second stint in a firm that is like a Broken Arrow. Loose cannon without any direction or focus.

With such a load of characters from your everyday walk of life [especially if you are like me. In marketing operations for an IT Product firm where I deal with such guys day in and out] you know you have a top-class entertaining book. Manu throws in case studies one after the other about how sales ought NOT to be done for an IT start-up firm. It ought to be a cult classic with the sales folks around in India – the last chapter being a nail in the coffin of this fictional firm. I did think Manu walked a tightrope in terms of making it sound funny and yet keep it believable. Especially the excessively annoying habit of the narrator to get into lurid descriptions of the female anatomy to convey his frustrations at the inept boss. Some situations are seriously funny while some come across as just too exaggerated to be true. But hey, you never know. Selling in India, as the author puts it, is a completely different ballgame. If I were you though, a reader in the “sales room”, then I would pay attention to those last chapters. Rajesh, the first-person narrator spewing some wisdom after having played a non-committal role being just a mirror-image and mouth-piece for his quirky office-mates. And yeah – being set in Bangalore, Manu deftly captures the everyday scenes and minutiae that make up this silicon valley of India.

There definitely was another drawback but it could be a personal matter. The fact that while Rajesh’s background is alluded to ( his father being a Secretary of State?) we never really are privy to Rajesh’s thoughts. He comes across as a cold unsympathetic SOB with only a CYA [ Cover Your Ass. In other words, be self centred. And ensure your boat floats.] policy for most decisions taken in a firm. So yeah, your main narrator is this unemotional unattached chap who gets wet dreams about..well just about anything female and walks on two legs. Could be a turn-off but Manu’s easy flow of events and the humour helps ease things a bit.

Overall, I ain’t crooning that this is going to be your mantra to selling – but it forms a powerful medium giving us a “dekho” into the ever-turbulent sales room where all the decisions that could kill or maim the economy takes place. I enjoyed it a lot. It’s daft. It’s tongue-in-cheek. It’s irreverent to the core. And no, it’s not about selling.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Of Bone And Thunder by Chris Evans. A Fantasy Tribute to the Vietnam War.

A novel that really celebrates the bounds of human imagination setting a Vietnam War to be fought on the planes of Fantasy and to so consummately bring alive the minutiae of a guerrilla war-fare fought in the sweltering humid dense forests and to really blow the readers mind by bringing in…wait for it… Drrrr..agons - Fantastically towering achievement. Kudos to Chris.

I confess I haven't read Chris Evans before. Acclaimed for the Iron Elves trilogy, Chris this time goes in for a completely new setting for his new book, Of Bone and Thunder. I got the ARC copy from Galley books and while it took some time to get around to it, once I got started, this was un-putdownable. ( There. damn you English Nazis!)

Chris creates a brutal ruthless war where your foe is forever invisible, giving some real memorable characters to root for and back up all the way to the calamitous climax, slapping on gooey layers of politicking through some sumptuous world building and rounds it off in rousing style by adding fire-breathing dragons to the war. It is in some ways an incredibly satisfying book - full marks for the author for having pulled it off. And yet - there were instances where I felt completely disenchanted and disconnected to the characters. And that put an ugly monkey wrench into the overall scheme of enjoying this book.

Okay - the GREAT things first.

Vietnam War is brought alive and ah, so beautifully. The Kingdom is fighting to repel the advance of the Forest Collective and the crux of the war is being fought in this ruthless brutal land called Luitox. The war is brought to us through three main POVs – the hapless Red Shield – infantry armed with crossbows and longbows on the ground, sweating it out and mucking the shit deep within the forests, having to suffer the invisible slyts ( Viet Cong any one!!) – the natives skilled at dirty guerrilla warfare.  Then we get the sky-view of the war: Where Wing Commander Vorly leads the rags – huge fire-breathing dragons used for air support and mainly transporting the troops from one part of the Lux ( as Luitox is known in short) – and thirdly, we get the mysterious Jawn Rathim and Rickets, two men stuck in the middle of this hopeless war. One – a magician who enlisted with the dreams of guts and glory and the other – a paper-pusher who seems to know a little too much about the war.

We get a fantastic introduction to the nuances of this forest war through the members of the Red Shield, lavishing us readers with characters such as the grumpy head-strong Shield Leader Sinte, the compassionate level-headed second-in-command Listowk or the reluctant soldier Carny always happy to be stoned and zoned out or the silent and deadly Wraith – not all of them likable – sweeping us into a heady narrative with all the fireworks and sweaty blustering trappings of a dirty war – and yet all of it seems intensely personal. We're made to sweat it out in the glades, wade through dosha swamps, sit through sleepless night vigils our hearts in the mouth waiting for the ghostly slyts to attack and then wholeheartedly take up the war-cries of “Fuck the Lux” to storm the advancing slyt troops by the climax.

But the best parts for me, without doubts – were the harrowing moments up in the air on top of a flying dragon that heats up hotter than a boiling cauldron. Vorly and his rag, Carduus and his whole flock of rags transporting troops and wasting the forests of Lux in large swathes of fiery dragon breath. It was bloody original and fantastically portrayed. That alone, makes this book a winner. A wild heady gasping for breath while being cooked alive underneath ride!

And Now the not so great aspects..
My chief issues with the book was the scattered POVs itself and thus – not being able to completely connect with the characters. While Jawn Rathim starts off as a sympathetic character who is all set out to prove his worth to the military, the story plots sidetrack him to concentrate on his magical abilities and utilize that for the war. And we see little of him towards the second half except for being a weapon in this hopeless war. Rickets – while initially the author builds up an aura of mystery around this strange guy who claims to be a “crowny” [a bureaucrat paper-pushing accountant for the Kingdom]  the second half of the book, he is missing. Except to pop up towards the end. Same for the various red shield soldiers – none of them are remotely likeable. Sullen and unwilling, Carny prefers to block out the realities of the war by stoning out on “Silver” and “Little Flower” while others like Wraith keeps disappearing into the bushes on the pretext of tracking the natives, Ahmist probably the only devout guy in the Shield following the book of LOKAM [some sort of a Bible in this world] is frequently silenced by FUCK the LOKAM cries taken up by the Shield. On the other hand, Vorly with his rags and his arguments with Breeze – a thaum from RAT [Royal Academy of Thaumology where people hone up their magical skills] did make for some entertaining read.

Overall, a jungle war narrative that expertly brings to life the hopelessness of such in the midst of searing heat, sweltering humidity, treacherous swamps, outflanked by the invisible enemy and without clear objectives – all this wrapped in a fantastical setting complete with powerful magic and fire-breathing dragons. A great homage to the Vietnam War.