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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A playful yet poorly executed retelling
on 12 November 2013
I like Dajit Nagra, I like his enthusiasm and exuberance and this work follows very much in his known style of crazy over-the-top descriptions and weird word-forms, by which he tells a multicoloured tale in a hypercoloured manner, with a proliferation of exclamation marks and passages of Punglish in amongst sometimes very loosely versed, sometimes very tightly versed (in one place: one-letter-per-line), poetry.
On the whole I enjoyed reading this story, and I did enjoy (to some degree) the chaotic manner of its telling. But, notwithstanding, it is a sprawling mess of a poem. Perhaps that is fitting for a story that similarly leaps all over the place, where the most dire of circumstances is resolved by a hastily summoned mantra, or yet another arrow, even more powerful than the previous mighty arrow, which in turn was preceded by a volley of very deadly arrows; and so on.
There are places where, just at the height of excitement, the narration skips forward and past the moment, and so misses it. Similarly there are long passages where not a great deal happens. In short, there were too many places where I wanted the narration to slow down, and, of course, others where I wished it would get a move on.
Does this matter? Possibly. Possibly not. It may indeed be a good way of telling a fairly simple story that yet involves mythological creatures and other magical phenomena, many-headed/many-limbed assailants, monkey armies, disinterested or otherwise powerless Gods [in that they are forced to grant 'boons' (magical powers or invulnerabilities) to anyone, good or bad, who may ask for them], and the most beautiful woman any mortal or immortal has ever laid eyes on; naturally.
And, as I say, I did generally enjoy reading this book. And there is one passage at least, concerning a certain magical herb (I won't say more, though it's no Moly) which was described in half a page if finely crafted, dare I say perfectly calibrated, language - in keeping with the surrounding over-exuberance, yet also gentle and quiet in the midst of the battle-chaos. It shows that Nagra *can* do it, as I've seen in his earlier work, he *is* a good poet. Yet all too often reading this book I found the narration, and as such the writing, fairly sloppy, with repeated descriptions that add nothing to the preceding lines, or else badly executed changes of pace [there were good ones too, yes, but mostly they were pretty clumsy], altogether too many words, a woeful selection of altered typefaces straight out of word-processing programs [the somewhat more subtle use of bold or italics worked far better, and gave the same level of emphasis without the sense unoriginality that comes from selecting common ill-fitting fonts]; but most of all it was the poor sense of storytelling that lets it down. Yes, the story is told, the main points are put across, there are memorable parts, there are some entirely forgettable parts, but as a whole the story did not seem to come alive in this telling, but was rather smothered by special effects and playful accoutrements.
In summary: I think most readers would enjoy this work, on a surface level, for its playfulness, and maybe even for certain moments where it suddenly hits the right chord; but on a more serious note of trying to render the story in a lasting and memorable manner that really goes to the heart of the myth from which it is drawn, the story's overall structure is neither well realised nor is its writing well executed.
To end on a positive note (for I wish to make clear I do not hate this work, I was merely disappointed that it didn't achieve the heights it could have) there are places where Nagra employs curved or circular script; no change in typeface or point size, just a curve or a wave or a full circle, and in line with what is happening in the narration at that moment; these I found very effective both in their sparceness and the clear purpose with which the were employed.
Personally, I will still look out for works by Nagra in future, but I can't exactly recommend this one; not as such; but then neither can I say it doesn't give out at least some-thing (and that an unusual-thing) in it's telling.