29 Years
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Monday, February 03, 2014
By Robin Shukla

Three novels this week had their individual degrees of literary finesse. Red Hill by Jamie McGuire attests to the fact that love will find a way to overcome situations, no matter how hopeless they seem. The Einstein Pursuit by Chris Kuzneski sees rogue elements being countered by those who have the good of the world at heart. The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti makes you live and love under military occupation. Very moving. 

If the world gets taken over by the infected
Red Hill by Jamie McGuire is doomsday scenario revisited. We have a surfeit on 'undead' novels and movies, but in most of these, the evil ambulators are powered by the nether world, and are scary demons that have to be destroyed before they manage to chew on us.

A contagion originating in Germany, because of some researcher, has breached American shores, and passengers falling ill on incoming international flights have begun attacking the airline employees and paramedics who are getting them off the planes at major airports.  

Jamie McGuire, however, has us confronted by infected persons who have 'turned' into zombies after being bitten and have now developed a need for human flesh and blood. They are shuffling about, biting and eating up their victims, and the numbers increase to where towns and cities get overrun by the walking corpses.

As main characters, when all hell breaks loose in the American mid-west, you have Scarlet, a red-haired nurse separated from her philandering husband who has taken her  daughters Halle and Jenna on an outing. Nathan, a hardworking man at a desk in an electric co-op, gets home with his daughter, Zoe, only to find that his indifferent wife has left them and run off. Miranda and her sister, Ashley, are two vivacious college-going girls out with their boyfriends, Bryce and Cooper. They are the daughters of Dr. Hayes who owns Red Hill Ranch, a wonderful secluded place which becomes the last stand in this story.  The novel is about Scarlet trying to reach her daughters and husband, becoming a desperate fighter, knocking off the animated creatures as she heads for and occupies Red Hill Ranch. Nathan too is doing his best to get his little Zoe to safety, with his brother-in-law, the quick shooting Skeeter, who plays a super fighter role. The Hayes girls go through hell, as death and despair take over. All find themselves reaching Red Hill with Joey, who has just got back from Iraq, and is handy with the gun when it is time to pick off the converging walking dead. This is all written so well that you feel you are part of the story and are wracked with all the traumatic emotions as loved ones fall prey to the walking dead. There is a lot going for this book as we live through it and emerge survivors.

Red Hill
by Jamie McGuire
Simon & Schuster


When science becomes a tool of the crooked
The Einstein Pursuit by Chris Kuzneski takes the meddling with science a little further.  A secret laboratory in Stockholm, Sweden, gets blown up and a massive inferno destroys all evidences that could help uncover the truth behind the incident.

The Interpol gets in because it emerges that a great number of scientists who were involved in research and technology and had clandestinely congregated there over some mysterious project, were of different nationalities. The blast seems to be handiwork of a master expert. Interpol Director Nick Dial has to fly in from France to network with local police expert, Johann Eklund.   

There in the United States, in Pittsburgh, another scientist involved in bio-medical research, 80-year-old Mattias Sahlberg, back from a morning walk, is about to enter his home when he espies gunmen entering the place, and the chase begins. He manages to elude the men and calls for help, contacting the only person who can save him, belonging to the Payne family that had hired him to work for their industries when he first stepped ashore in America from Sweden. Enter Jonathan Payne and David Jones, ex-Special Forces. There is a superb, action-packed long drawn out punch up and shoot-out at the Monongahela Incline cable car station. There is a tough Egyptian, Omar Masseri, entrusted with extracting Sahlberg and his team of crack commando-types comes to grief after a gripping gun battle. In the aftermath, an injured attacker is killed in police custody as is the lawyer who met him. So keen is someone about leaving no traces or tracks. For us readers, it is essentially a paisa vasool entertainment right from the start.     

It emerges that this book is about molecular biology, especially connected with cellular manipulation, and if it may sound like gobbledegook here, credit to Chris for simplifying it in the book. The various characters involved offer some science lessons with fascinating insight, and importantly so, because that is where the real world is actually heading.

There is a secretive watchdog Einstein Club operating from the US. Only problem is that various elements and high funding billionaires like a Zidane have become unscrupulous for their own reason, for which purpose research is being hijacked. In the bargain, scientists like Tomas Berglund go missing and are found operating at remote unknown facilities, or are being bumped off like at the start of the story. Payne and Jones with Interpol makes for a lethal combination.

The Einstein Pursuit
by Chris Kuzneski
Hachette India


Palestine will one day become a land of peace
The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti can inflict pain if you read it with an open mind. After suspending unjustifiable and indefensible pro-Israeli, pro-West bias, (why do Indians have it?) and accepting the Palestinians as human beings, the suffering of a people who have been denied the right to exist in their own homeland can leave you shocked and speechless.

This is not a case for Hamas or the Hezbollah, but suppression in whatever form breeds resentment, and living in the fear of death for too long makes one indifferent, to the extent strapping a belt laden with explosives, or lobbing one at your tormentors doesn't seem so frightening. There must therefore be peace, is what the reader will endorse. This is the world view of 12-year-old Ahmed Hamid, that is why the comparison to Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner. It is also an indictment.

Mama began to retch. A soldier spat at her.  Baba lay on the ground, his lips parted innocently, his eyes closed as if he were asleep, except that blood poured out of his nose and under his head. My eyes never left him as two soldiers dragged his limp body out into the darkness...Outside I heard three gunshots fired at close range. My heart convulsed. I looked over at Mama. She had dropped to the ground, her arms around her knees, rocking back and forth...My family's wails, as we huddled together, penetrated my bones. I willed myself dead in Baba's place and knew, as simply and certainly as a twelve-year-old boy knows anything, that I'd never be happy again.

Two weeks later: The screech of tyres at the bottom of the hill brought me to reality...Boots dug into the hill, crushing the terrain. 'Everyone out of the house!' The faceless voice of the army called through its megaphone from our yard. Mama's eyes widened with terror. I opened the tin door that I'd just fixed. A dozen gas-masked soldiers stood in our yard like giant insects. A soldier lifted his mask. 'Out! Now!' He was a chubby-cheeked teenager, a grotesque doll come to life...Sara's face was covered in blood that came from a huge gash on her forehead. I placed her limp body on the ground...Mama leaned over my shoulder. 'Save her, Ahmed.' Sara never moved. Her eyes never fluttered. 'Please, Ahmed,' Mama cried.    

The Almond Tree
by Michelle Cohen Corasanti

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