This is the first Rushdie book I read - Haroun and the Sea of Stories. Wikipedia (Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haroun_and_the_Sea_of_Stories) calls this book a phantasmagorical story, the word (in italics) meaning - characterized by fantastic imagery and incongruous juxtapositions.
The book begins like this - There was once , in the country of Alifbay, a sad city, the saddest of cities, a city so ruinously sad that it had forgotten its name. It stood by a mournful sea full of glumfish, so miserable to eat that they made people belch with melancholy...
Though this is the first paragraph of this 12 chapter book, there is no gloom in any page or chapter of the book. This book would come under for children category but it offers a great read for adults too. In fact, the narration style deployed brings a wide smile on the reader's face as he/she sails happily through the Sea of Stories.
Brief overview of the plot:
The story is based in India, there is mention of Town of G (possibly referring to Gulmarg), then the Valley of K (referring to Kashmir), the tunnel of I, Dull Lake (referring to Dal lake). The story, in short, is about Haroun Khalifa, a child, who lives cheerfully with his parents - Rashid Khalifa and Soraya in a house that looks more like a cake. Rashid is a great story teller and has credits like the Shah of Blah, the one with Gift of Gab and tells tales, truly amazing and interesting ones. When Haroun wonders where his father gets this immense talent and multitude of stories from, Rashid quips - from the great Story Sea. There is a sudden nasty turn in their lives that forces Rashid into depression and pale silence; Haroun swears to himself that he will restore the Gift of Gab to his father, bring back cheer in him, at any cost, even if takes a trip to the unknown land of Gup on Kahani - the second satellite of Earth, he interacts and makes friends with aliens - water genies, eggheads, floating gardners, many-mouthed fishes and machine like birds. He learns that on Kahani, there are too many Processes too Complicated to Explain (P2C2E). Haroun even finds himself in a war like situation on Kahani where people of Gup city - the Guppies are fighting to save themselves from the Land of Chup, across the border and its inhabitants - the Chupwalas.
The wikipedia link contains full synopsis of the book, a complete spoiler, much like the detailed synopsis of movies on IMDB. So if you plan to read this book, please keep away from Wikipedia link.
About book and the author, my recommendations:
I have read or heard more negative reviews of Rushdie's writing style/books than positive ones, so I was little skeptical when I picked this book from Flipkart. But from this book, I can state categorically, there is no better story teller than Rushdie; he is an impeccable master at his job.
Most fiction books we read fall in "read and forget" category, then there are classic works of Dickens and many more great story tellers that leave a lasting impact. Very few, barely a handful, bring a childlike happiness and envelope us in bliss, Haroun and the Sea of Stories belongs to this smallest subset of books. Being quite possessive about my books, one will surely make me cross even if they marginally displaced this book in my shelf ;)