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Book Review: Hell! No Saints in Paradise by A.K. Asif

We live in a world, which is deeply divided on religious lines. Terrorism, killings, mass murders committed in the name of religion are the order of the day. It is not surprising that the percentage of people who choose atheism over organised religion is on the rise.

In the book, ‘Hell! No Saints in Paradise’ author AK Asif introduces us to Ismael, who is an atheist. He was brought up in Pakistan, where his religious father always sermonised on the Do’s and Don’ts of life. Not following the siraat e mustaaqeem (the so-called straight path), would lead him to jahannum (or hell). He grew up listening to stories of divine punishments meted out to those who go to hell. Ismael escaped Pakistan and settled in America instead.

Several years later, in the year 2050, he chances upon Petra, a psychoanalyst, who advises him to visit the Yage Yoga Centre. He experiences a potion there which he is transported to a psychedelic world of spiritualism and has visions of Al-Khidr. This encounter prompts him to visit Pakistan, which is now under the Caliphate. Ismael now has to pose as a believer in order to secure his passage and safety in Pakistan.

What follows is a tale of self-discovery. Although dystopian bordering on fantasy, this book is also a commentary on the socio-political climate of the modern world. In his lucid language, and strong and articulate writing, AK Asif makes you a compatriot of Ismael in this journey.

While one must definitely pat the author’s back for coming up with a book on fantasy genre, on a subject which often gets people killed, it is also worth noting that the length of the book is painstakingly long.

However, the book gets you involved. There are gory scenes, details which are at times unpalatable. But one must read on (just like one must continue to live through events). Does Ismael finish his thesis on paradise and hell? That’s for you to read and find out. It is the journey that matters.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

P.S. – Thank you Writersmelon for the review copy. 

DISCLAIMER: All Images Used In This Post Have Their Respective Copyrights

Book Review: The Peshwa – The Lion and the Stallion by Ram Sivasankaran

peshwaHistory was one of my favourite subjects in school. The stories from the past always excited me. Sadly, when we were in school internet was unheard of and the only source of information was the text book. Thanks to the rat race and focus on syllabus and exams, the charm of the subject was lost. But even now historical fiction as a genre excites me the most. There is no pleasure more gratifying than reading about the bygone eras as stories.

The Maratha empire finds little mention in the History syllabus which I studied. However, thanks to Sanjay Khan’s ‘The Great Maratha’ the concept of Chhatrapati, Peshwa and Balaji Bajirao was not alien to me. Ram Sivasankaran humanises the Peshwa for us.

The novel is set in the 18th century; Mughal empire is on its decline and the Maratha Confederacy has established itself as a force to be reckoned with in the Indian Subcontinent. Nizam Ul Mulk of the Mughal Empire, whose ambitions know no bound, wants to end the Maratha Confederacy by eliminating their biggest warrior – the Peshwa Balaji Vishvanath Bhat. There are enemies within the Maratha fold who would go to any lengths to fulfill their desires – even attack the Chhatrapati.

After the demise of Balaji Vishvanath Bhat, the Peshwa’s son, Bajirao Bhat, ascends the position of Peshwa and must utilise his scant military and administrative experience to deal with the enemies facing the empire.

True to the title of the book, the whole narrative shows us the heroic side of Bajirao. We see him mature from an adolescent son who is learning politics and warfare from his father, to a responsible leader who is ready to embrace death to protect his flock. We also see the humane side of him, a loving husband and a devoted father.

The writing is nothing short of a thriller and will keep you hooked till the last page. The descriptions are so vivid you can actually picture the scenes before your eyes. Every character has been etched flawlessly, highlighting the grey shades. The dialogues are crisp and every chapter well thought out.

If only history textbooks (or teaching methods in schools) were half as interesting as books like ‘The Peshwa’, people would not associate dull, soporific tenor with the subject. Thank you Ram Sivasankaran for a prized collection on an important chapter of Indian history (albeit forgotten).

P.S.  Thank you Writers Melon for the review copy.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

DISCLAIMER: All Images Used In This Post Have Their Respective Copyrights

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