Saturday, October 12, 2013

Book Review: TALE SPIN

Is the next spin only a page away? 

I did not think much when I laid my hands on this book - Tale Spin - a collection of 14 short stories by Sanjay Chopra, published by Harper Collins. Priced at Rs 299 and available at the Strand Book Festival, Bangalore at a whooping 60% discount, there was no room for second thought. 

My one year old son keeps me busy to the extent that hitting the blog/web space or reading a sizable book is next to impossible. Therefore, short stories give me the right option, a story a day at bed time after my baby goes to sleep, no worries of forgetting characters after a prolonged and significant disconnect from the book. 

Without further ado, let me hit at what Tale Spin provides. The short stories are crisp, simple in prose; most importantly, they provide an interesting, proportionate mixture of fact and fiction. The prelude to the book specifies that many stories have won accolades and to me 7 out of 14 tales are clear winners. 

Turache?, the first story in the collection mixes history and fantasy in an excellent fashion and provides a great start for the book. A neat figment of imagination, it deals with an encounter between King Darius III and Alexander taking us back to the Battle of Gaugamela, 331 BC. The throttle for the tale spin intensifies with the next tale - A Fate Worse Than, different periods in history - times of Timur rule and Hitler's attack on Russia are woven in an impeccable narrative. Sanjay Chopra once again conjures the past and present in a magical manner in his next tale - Men of the Horse. Odysseus, Troy and Trojan Horse together churn a gripping account. 

A small slack is felt in Awake, a story set in Magadha in 500 BC, during the reign of Ajatashatru. Nonetheless, the author quickly picks up lost momentum in Project Ha Ha. With this tale, the author proves his mettle lies in mixing true accounts of history with fiction/present day events and the transition in time is completely seamless. The German and English air crafts bombard in high skies to provide some intriguing stuff in this story. 

Putra, The Last Gurkha and God's Hand do not offer that brilliant a read as its predecessors. It appears that the author was tired of speeding all along and decided to go a little easy for some time. He tries to rivet the reader's lost interest in the next few tales - Bata Shoes, The Contractor, A Sound Idea. 

Bata Shoes  provides an interesting account of Indo-Pak war from an angle never viewed before.
The Contractor is passable, seems the author wobbled for a second when he tried to gain some lost momentum. The author nails a clean victory in A Sound Idea which is total thriller.

Betrayal unravels dirty dark secrets of twin sisters but miserably fails to impress, it is a sheer spoiler. Twenty20 brings back some lost smile on the reader's face, its protagonists hack into the most secure main frames and super computers and also place the author stealthily on a strong foothold for his next tale spin. The Day Tina was Born is an emotional power pack, well executed and sure to leave even the most hard hearted soul teary eyed. However, genre wise it is a misfit in this collection.

Overall, seven strong favorites make me pronounce Sanjay Chopra's Tale Spin a good read. The author's interest in history is highly admirable and his definitive style of mixing fact and fiction is laudable. 

The back cover of the book mentions the author ensures that the next spin is only a page away. Some tales stand tall by this claim but some do not - a MIXED BAG!