Plot- rating - 3/5
Quantum Physics meets Bible and Vedas in Background of Kashmir and Cricket
This super snazzy description paired with that sexy cover photo will pique the interest of even the least bookish. It’s the literary equivalent of a suspiciously colourful cocktail at a bar with questionable rep. You have no clue how it’ll taste, or if you’ll even live to see another day, but damn it, you’ll just have to die trying. That said, I must confess I went in with minimal expectations, given my previous experience with amateurish attempts at thrillers.
Baramulla Bomber is the author, Clark Prasad’s, very first novel. We follow the meteoric rise of Mansur Haider (the titular Baramulla Bomber) through to the ranks of the Indian national cricket team, in the backdrop of a joint terrorist plot involving both China and Pakistan; spanning Oslo, Mumbai, New Delhi, Kashmir, a little cove in Scotland and Islamabad; along with the underlying theme of ‘primordial sound (aka Om)’ and a bunch of people called the Guardians. Confused? Well take an aspirin, down an espresso and forge ahead.
First, the positives-The author irrefutably has an impressive repertoire of information. There aren’t many novels in the market that deal so extensively with Indian intelligence (no pun intended), and it’s a nice plus seeing our (surprisingly competent) security forces and government portrayed in a positive light. The plot has all the potential of being the sci-fi espionage thriller it promises to be, and a cast of consistently good-looking, tall and multi-talented characters. I was genuinely intrigued by the entire concept of primordial sound and its ability to both heal and annihilate. The entire book was littered with factoids about warfare (from border skirmishes with Pakistan and China to US’s invasion of Iraq) and religion which were enough to sustain my interest, despite the negatives.
On the flip side, Prasad seems to use English like a third language. His sentence flow is rusty, his descriptions blasé (I can arguably blame the editor for this slip-up, but dang it Clark, you’re a fellow bookworm). After more than 300 pages, I came away with no lasting impressions of the characters, their minds and their motivations. The climax was a misnomer, and I couldn’t get how India’s [spoilers] ‘grand’ speech at the UN would convince an entire room full of politically-conscious, cutthroat nations to reject a bill [/spoilers].
The story takes a while to pick up any pace (somewhere around page 112), with sporadic jumps in time and setting. Clark Prasad has a lot to say, but he is clearly struggling with the constraints of a coherent plot. Let’s call him a diamond in the rough (since I’m feeling generous), because I can see him writing better stuff. Like that mythical breed of human called the optimist, I look forward to his second novel, in the hope that it won’t leave me feeling as irritated, and mildly disappointed, as this one. I guess I won’t need to wait too long, seeing as this is apparently a trilogy.