Friday, August 26, 2005

The Simoqin Prophecies, by Samit Basu

We have a Sci-Fi writer in our midst.

I knew vaguely that Samit Basu had published a novel in India, but didn't know much about it.

It turns out, The Simoqin Prophecies has been released here in the U.S. I found my copy (purchased yesterday) at a Borders on Long Island. It's a $7.99 paperback, so Sci-Fi fans and Indian literature fans really have no excuse for not picking it up!

I'm sure everyone is saying this, and it might well annoy Samit to say this, but I think the simplest publishing tag-line/blurb for this might be the "Desi Harry Potter." Here's a snippet from an early chapter (I'm just starting the book):

History tells us that some things never change. One of these things is: history bores a lot of people. And when young spellbinders at Enki University, Kol, were bored, they tended to do something about it.

'Put that thing away, Borphi,' said Chancellor Ombwiri, his eyes never leaving the blackboard.

The Boy Genius put the inkatapult away. How did Ombwiri do it? But then again, he was the Chancellor of Enki University, the most famous centre of magical studies in Kol, and, indeed, the world, and so he was someone whom you'd expect would have a few tricks up his sleeve. The Chancellor, however, was not using magic on this particular occasion. He was using another potent force -- habit.

See the parallels? For the record, it really, truly, doesn't bother me at all. And I have a feeling, from the chapters I've read, that the novel (and indeed, the series), is going to go off in its own very interesting directions, with humor and irreverence.

I fervently hope this book succeeds, and finds lots of readers in the U.S. (Expect another post once I've finished the book.)

A little more in the teacherly vein, since next week I'm back in the classroom:

Ombwiri's classes were always full. This was because he never stuck to his subject, and he used a large number of thrilling and usually dangerous spells in all his lectures. Explosions, injuries, love potions--all of these were standard ingredients in an Ombwiri classroom. The Chancellor never had to take attendance.

Hm, interesting. I really think that's what's been lacking in my teaching performance in recent years. Not enough large and dangerous spellcasting!

* * * *
--Also some discussion of Samit Basu and Indian science fiction at this forum.

--And Samit posts a link to a review in the U.S. SF magazine Locus.

--Nilanjana S. Roy has been mentioning both Samit Basu and Ashok Banker as writers to watch for several months. Here's an example, at Rediff, from back in January. And here from her blog.

--I had also earlier posted on Indian speculative fiction writer Vandana Singh.


Anonymous said...

Amardeep, I got here through Terry Teachout's website! You are newly linked. Cool. I still have to add you to my blogroll, ugh, work is so insane.

I've been spending some time on your site - it's really gorgeous.

MD (Sepiamutiny commenter)

12:37 PM  
Amardeep said...

Hi MD,

Hey, thanks for mentioning that to me. Terry Teachout is kind of an institution -- probably the biggest "Culture vulture" in New York. It's an honor to be linked to by him.

It's funny that I'm down there under "Schoolblogs," but then I suppose that is what I do.

I might prefer something like: Schoolblogger + Bollywood + Bhangra + Occasional mad-as-a-hatter satire + Gossip.

But I don't think he has a category for that on his blogroll -- yet ;-)

12:56 PM  
Anonymous said...

On a totally unrelated note ( nothing to do with your teaching I presume ), the university is now one of the top partying schools ;)
Just kidding Deep :D


4:05 PM  
Amardeep said...

Hi Mahesh! Nice to see you here.

Actually, we dicussed Lehigh's (unforutnate?) rise in the rankings of Party schools a couple of days ago. (See the comments to this post)

Oddly enough, Lehigh is also rising through the ranks of top research universities. This year the school is #32 in the country, which must be the highest it's ever been.

5:07 PM  
Jabberwock said...

Quick clarification (from someone who's perpetually annoyed by Rediff's mangling of articles): Nilanjana's piece was one of her weekly Speaking Volumes columns for Business Standard. Incidentally, she's regularly championed genre fiction (including SFF) in the column - much needed, given how uninformed (and snooty) many "readers" in India tend to be about certain genres.

1:37 AM  
samit said...

thanks amardeep, very very kind of you. now i actually have visitors on my blog :)
in my defence, i have to say that the chapter youve quoted is the ONLY harry potter reference, and it doesnt happen again :)
we've met online once, briefly, earlier, when i was blogging as putu the cat.

8:00 AM  
Suvendra Nath Dutta said...

Alright, I finished about 3/4 of the novel over most of last night. If my kid hadn't woken up I'd have kept on reading. I haven't done this since the days of Feluda. Impressive! The force is strong in this one.

Right now I am saying Terry Pratchett and Satyajit Ray/Upendrokishore are the biggest influences. Maybe Samit can be made to confess on this.

9:48 AM  
Sonia Faleiro said...

Nice post Amardeep.

We all know that Samit's talents are boundless, but fewer people have read Vandana Singh's superb series, YoungUncle.

Both books--Younguncle Comes to Town and YoungUncle in the Himalayas--are marketed for children, but Singh has that unusual gift of holding the attention of both the young and the old.

She not only has a way with words, she scripts enough drama and excitement to keep you begging for more.

As soon as I read the first volume I got online, and began heckling her for more on YoungUncle. I can't wait. :)

1:42 AM  

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