Saturday, January 21, 2006
Samit Basu did a book-launch/reading of his second book, The Manticore’s Secret, at Crossword in Mumbai on the 13th. I was present there. My thoughts on the event and the book.
I had a wonderful time at the book-launch. I got there early, and wandered about looking generally shifty. Then Samit arrived, and a simpering female fan (abbreviated as SFF – coincidence?) interviewed him, and I thoughtlessly muscled in on the interview.
Then the launch happened. There was a tolerable introduction, and a fine reading, followed by Samit chatting with Sonia Faleiro, with the audience joining in with their questions, followed by another reading and Q&A session. The conversation between Samit and Sonia was very relaxed and entertaining, which was nice.
The audience questions ranged from the basic (“Where do you get your ideas from?”, to which Samit disarmingly, and, in my opinion, honestly, replied, “I steal them from other writers.”) to the typical (“favourite books/authors”) and the bizarre (the clueless “Why do women always write depressing books?”). At least nobody tried to talk about ‘fantasy as symbolism’. I asked the question Jai poses near the end of his review here.
I found Samit to be very funny, very articulate (which was a bit of a surprise, because I had this idea of really good writers being people who spoke in monosyllables – or maybe that’s just me) and a very, very nice guy.
Samit (remembering a recommendation I’d made ages ago) signed my copies ‘Will read more Moorcock. Promise.’ Am mightily chuffed.
But my favourite part was after the reading ended – a tv crew was filming Samit doing a reading, without attaching the audio, and Samit, rather than doing a straight reading, spouted a whole lot of improvised silliness, which the tv host chap and I thoroughly enjoyed. (Er ... you had to be there.)
And then I had a chat with Samit, and he very helpfully answered my questions about publishing and writing in general. Thanks a lot for that, Samit. It was a huge pleasure being there and meeting you.
PrufrockTwo was also there, it seems.
I liked The Manticore’s Secret a lot, but it isn’t as much fun as the first book. A second reading might change my mind, though.
One thing I noted was that Samit has become a better writer (as opposed to storyteller). I especially realised this when I picked up Simoqin right after finishing Manticore. The voice has become a lot more assured, for certain. The descriptions are usually better than in the first book (example – ‘Grotesque gargoyles sidled sardonically along the battlements, faces frozen in masks of madness.’ – good fun), but they are also more numerous, which was not appreciated. But I loved his highly visual style of writing, which still sits very well beside the wit and humour.
My biggest complaint with Simoqin was that it wasn’t too original. Manticore is a lot more satisfying in that respect, although this also means that the sheer number of ideas present in the book is less than in Simoqin.
The humour part of the book is still wonderful. My favourite bit was the latin name Cricinda bludinec for a very tall tree.
1) Overlong – I was actually aware that I was reading a very large book.
2) The shifting action – the shift is generally smooth, but sometimes the narration comes to a halt for another bit of description (see above). And a few too many strands of narrative, although that’s necessary.
3) A disagreeably small role for Kirin – this was due, in part, to the numerous narrative strands, and the fact that characters with agendas (Kirin here) are less interesting than characters in doubt (Kirin in Simoqin). I will commend Samit for realising this, but I’ll complain anyway.
4) The GameWorld concept – not too bad, not too good. Amusing.
But the complaints don’t really matter much. The book is a great read, wonderfully plotted, and some of the scenes are simply stunning, as are the characters (who have evolved from exposition to actual dialogue!). And the best thing about the book is that it is actually a continuation of the story rather than a typical sequel, if you know what I mean.