19 June 2019

Indian science fiction that is not rehashed mythology (part 5 of 5)

Science Fiction | The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction | Tarun K Saint (editor)

Continuing the ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (I really liked it) review... This is part 3 of a post broken up so that I can tag all the authors in a story-by-story review. You can read part 4 here.

Anandna by Rukmini Bhaya Nair

This is in two parts, a story and a short poem. The poem only makes sense if you read the story first. The story doesn’t have quite the impact unless you read the poem at the end. There’s a large helping of brave self-pity in it, but the poem largely mitigates the maudlinism. It’s about a trio of dedicated researchers who make a drug that converts pain into pleasure. Things don’t stay in their control.

We Were Never Here by Nur Nasreen Ibrahim

A creepy story about a sanctuary for women who can’t take their downtrodden place in the world any more. There are costs, and the benefits may not even exist. “Some of us even fear that no one had noticed our departure.”

The Narrative of Naushirwan Shavaksha Sheikh Chilli by Keki N Daruwalla
Sheikh Chilli is one of the prototypical too-clever-for-his-own-good boastful guys of folklore. This story features an insolvent crook who borrows hugely and then flees the country along with his girlfriend (where haven’t we heard something like that in recent times?) to settle on the Moon and make merry. The twists are that he’s the last surviving Parsi. This is not as effervescent a story as you might expect. Decidedly heavy handed satire.

Looking Up by SB Divya

I found this story formulaic. It didn’t touch me in the right way. It’s about a candidate for passenger to Mars, who’s applied for a seat mainly to get as far as possible from the accident in her childhood, and about reconciliation with family. Predictable.

Reunion by Vandana Singh

Mahua has helped to mitigate climate change in Mumbai and its environs by moving to a decentralised village-style economy with rounded huts to withstand the ferocious new cyclones (I roll my eyes at such utopianism, but it’s not too central to the story), and, thankfully making it science fiction, smart connections between all people and things in the village. In flashback, we see how she came to do what she did, the AI and the AR, and what happened to her sister Kalpana and her friend Raghu on the way. The best parts about the story are the looking back to the present day as a sort of golden age, the Age of Kuber, where wealth abounded and resource was wasted.

All in all, a good collection, with some outright gems, and some pieces one just has to grit one’s teeth and plod through. Hopefully, there will be more reviews of collections of Indian science fiction that is not merely rehashed mythology (hint: yes, there will be. Stay tuned).

...End of part 5 and we finally reach the end of the chopped up long post...

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