What’s To Come

What?

I don’t know, honestly. At this point, anything could happen. I’m at that point where I want to blog seriously but I have no idea what exactly to blog about. So, here’s a very quick preview of the verbiage that is about to splatter across your beautiful laptops and iPads in the days and weeks to come.

Wattpad reviews. Basically, reviews of serialized fiction from the online platform, Wattpad. Keep an eye out for a review of Imalroc by @smaoineamh coming soon.

This thing on Clark Ashton Smith. And a thing on Lovecraft.

And yeah, that’s about it, honestly.

Stay tuned, whoever you are. Unless it’s just you, dead air. In which case, hello, old friend.

Reading Malayalam Fiction – My Tattered Jacket

I did not grow up in the land where I was born. Every year during summer vacation, we would cram a month’s worth of clothes, chicken nuggets and schoolbooks into four, heavy suitcases and we would fly three thousand kilometers across oceans and deserts till all we could see through the frosted aeroplane windows were the lush, rolling hills of Kerala.

We would be on the same flight a month later, our suitcases just as full, only this time, there would be books in place of the chicken nuggets. We’d have finished all the chicken nuggets a day after we had landed.

I couldn’t really buy many books where we grew up. Small paperbacks I could finish reading in a day cost about as much as a video-game I could play for a month. So, I’d save up my pocket money for our annual trip to India and I’d pester my parents till they took me to the bookstore. And then, for a couple of hours, I’d be in that peculiar heaven we book lovers are intimately familiar with. Only, it was different for me. This would be the only time I’d get to go to a bookstore all year.

The attendants there in their neat, brown polo shirts would observe me, rapt, as I loaded a trolley with enough books to last me a year. Fourteen was the highest that tally ever went up to. When I was twelve and thirteen, the books all belonged to roughly the same genre. The fantasy-YA side of things. These were the books that gently directed me to the rabbit hole that is Speculative Fiction. I still don’t know how deep that rabbit hole goes. My dog-eared copies of The Lord of the Rings and The Horse and His Boy, their once creamy pages now flecked with every shade of curry and condiment, still sit on my desk, almost begging me to reread them. Year fourteen to sixteen, I broadened my horizons. I began reading historical fiction, horror, crime and even non-fiction. But there was still one shelf I assiduously avoided.

This year, the last year I’d ever undertake this voyage before settling in India for good, I bit the bullet. I began furtively eyeing the Indian Fiction section and the Translated Works shelf in particular. I added a few books translated from Malayalam into the pile. I went home and burned through them even before the flight back.

My previous and sole experience with Kerala through literature was Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, which was written in English. From my first foray into the Translations shelf, I read Mira Nair’s Hangwoman and Benyamin’s Goat Days and The Yellow Lights of Death. I adored all these books. The stories told ranged from sweeping epics to poignantly personal narratives, sometimes in the same book. I could culturally understand these characters so  perfectly. I was amazed by how beautiful my national literature is.

But, I was also filled with a new and peculiar kind of shame. I asked my parents to read sections for me from the original Malayalam and I was blown away by the sheer baroqueness of that language. What made these books award winning, critically acclaimed masterpieces was not their detailed plots or the richness of their characterization. It was this gorgeous, self-aware, consciously crafted language.

And that was something I couldn’t tap into. It was like looking at a stunning winter vista through an open door but not having a thick enough jacket to actually venture out. It felt crippling.

I am trying to learn to read Malayalam. Right now, I can manage to finish one children’s book in three hours and comprehend maybe half of it. I’m hoping to be able to graduate to perhaps middle grade fiction by the end of this year. I am hoping to be able to be acquainted with the language enough to access the great wealth of my own national literature.

I am hoping to be able to walk through that door. I’m stitching my jacket. But what this humbling little experience has taught me is the importance of the original language in literature. We read for telepathy. We read to access another man’s thoughts. Only, I can’t do that with Malayalam fiction. I can only read those thoughts as interpreted by someone else in the language of the very people who oppressed my people for centuries. So I’m stitching my jacket. Stitch yours as well.

A Review of The Mind is a Razorblade by Max Booth III

If you were to make a list of initially very pulpy things that have become cultural milestones, noir-fiction would be very high up on that list.

And noir also has infinite potential for weird remixes and re-imaginings. The idea of a character who knows next to nothing in the beginning of a story and ends up figuring out a whole lot of things towards the end is a common theme for spec-fic. Especially more imaginative spec-fic.

Look at Blade Runner.

Look at Dark City.

Look at The City & The City.

You should probably also take a look at The Mind is a Razorblade by Max Booth III.

The story follows a man with know name who wakes up naked and sandwiched between two corpses with no memory of who he is and what he’s doing there. And all he has are his wits and his comfort with pulling triggers to guide him. He questions, hurts and kills his way through a narcotic infused, insane dystopia of a city where the cult worship of a god named Conundrae abound in every street corner.

There’s the transport of organs, whole lots of spiders, perhaps one of the the creepiest army of minions I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading about and of course, gobs and gobs of plot twists and revelations.

You have all the basic tropes that weird-fiction seems to love right on the tin. You have drugs, cults and confusion. But it also has its fair share of noir tropes. The constant sense of mystery that seems to pervade the narrative, the dame, the guns, the mob bosses, the explosions. You do have all that.

And then, you have a cracker of a central mystery. Who am I? Am I the ‘me’ I was before or the ‘me’ I am now, sans memory with the skills and abilities and sins I seem to have inherited? Why does my head hurt so much?

The pacing is done very right. This is one of those Crank-esque roller coaster rides that never really lets up to give you air. Ever since the main character wakes up till the explosive conclusion, there’s next to no breathing room.

Which rather works for this book. All in all, it was a very fast, very fun sort of read.

There are a few problems with it, though. The prose, for the most part doesn’t try to play too many games with you and stays out of the way, letting you get on with the story and immerse yourself. The dialogue, however seemed a little too uninspired at certain places. And when the ideas and prose are so good, that kind of thing sticks out like a sore tentacle.

The foreshadowing is tasteful and for the most part rather effective but a little bit more fleshing out about the lore and backstory would not have gone amiss.

But for the most part, The Mind is a Razorblade was an intriguing, sharp and delightfully spidery little read and I’m excited to read the rest of Booth’s oeuvre.

You can buy The Mind is a Razorblade here . And you should also keep a close eye on Kraken Press if you’re into this sort of stuff.