The Immortals of Meluha. Written by Amish Tripathi. The best seller in fiction category in whichever bookshop I entered, whether it’s Crossword or Granth in Mumbai or Odyssey in Calicut. The book was obviously doing very well and its returns were going through the roof. Amish Tripathi, an IIM grad, is the poster boy of new Indian fantasy fiction genre. With its glossy cover and over-the-top reviews, I had been waiting to get my hands on it for more than half a year. But when I did….suffice to know that the excitement petered out.
The concept of the story is VERY promising. It’s about Shiva being an ordinary mortal and his adventures which end up promoting him to a mythical status, to be remembered as a God. Yup, interesting as hell. I was completely bowled over by the concept. A mortal immortalized as a God.
The story , which is set in 1900 BC, is about Shiva, who is the chief of the Tibetan tribe Guna. He is invited by the Kingdom of Meluha, who are looking for the legendary Neelkanth, the one prophesied be their savior. The Meluhan Kingdom is set about the Indus Valley Civilization, with Mohen jo Daro and Harappa both figuring among the list of cities in the book. The Meluhans call themselves Surya vanshis (i.e. of the Sun dynasty) and they are involved in a desperate struggle against their enemies- the Chandra vanshis (Moon dynasty). The story in most parts revolves around the Somras, an unstable drink which grants the Suryavanshis immortality and everlasting youth. The Chandravanshis seemingly seek to deprive their counterparts of Somras. Thus the two dynasties are caught up in a cycle of unending violence. Shiva is looked upon as the savior who shall put an end to this vicious cycle.
Very impressive concept indeed. But like so many books out in the world, the execution left a lot to be desired. A hell lot. the one thing that annoyed me the most was the element of fantasy introduced in the story. I love fantasy books. But in this case we are missing the purpose. The apparent purpose of the book as I had registered in my mind was the exploration of how Shiva, a mere mortal man, through his brave deeds was elevated to a legend and then ultimately to Godhood. The introduction of fantasy was rather annoying. Its like while trying to explain a fantastic mythology, you create another fantasy. If there has to be fantasy, then for Pete’s sake stick to the original one!
The narration of the story is fine in most places but it DID get oppressive in parts. For example where Shiva asks Nandi if they would eat in a “Brahmin restaurant”. A restaurant?! I nearly gagged myself on that one. The author used a modern colloquial (and originally French) term to describe something that could be more appropriately referred to as an inn or perhaps a tavern. The story is filled with many such recurring anachronisms. Character development too was unimpressive. Shiva plays the role of a generic do-gooder hero, the one who means well but thinks that he is not actually a hero. Sati, the heroine, is the generic aloof, attitude wise i-shall-not-fall-for-you-type heroine who falls for the hero in the end any ways. There are no memorable characters in the story.
The expectation this story generated was immense. Perhaps this is why I am being this unforgiving. But fairly speaking, I expected better.
I will give the book 1.5/5. 1.5 for the concept that the author tried to execute, but failed. I much prefer Samit Basu’s Game World Trilogy.