Book Review: Thundergod
Entry no. #3 – Debut Indian Writers Month: October 2012
Its raining Indian mythological fictions and one more god from the Hindu pantheon of gods is human now – Indra, the Thundergod. Rajiv G Menon in his debut book humanizes the king of gods in a tale of never ending wars, gory blood shed and a few emotions here and there. Though Rajiv’s Indra dosen’t seem Indian with blue eyes and golden colored hair, he has the arrogance of our very own Indian Indra though very different in attitude.
Rajiv’s interest in Greek and Indian mythology shows off in his debut work as the book opens somewhere in Central Asia with most of the names sounding ‘not so Indian’, while also with a parallel character on Mount Meru. The book starts with the story of Indra’s birth to the earth goddess Gaia and Raja Daeyus, the king of Devas a clan of barbarian warriors. It is a forbidden union between an elemental and a human but one with a prophecy attached to it. Ishtar, the goddess of Susa – a civilized, developed and progressive clan of people – is worried at this union because if the prophecy were true then Indra would emerge as the greatest warrior the known world has seen, uniting all the warring tribes of his forefathers. Inspired by the Egyptian concepts of sex as power, Rajiv’s Ishtar uses all her powers including her power to detect fears through the sexual act to trap the Devas within her lands and dispose off Indra. But Daeyus and his band of veteran warriors fight the final and fatal battle to help Mitra, their guide-friend-philosopher-teacher, and the Devas flee to Gandhara, which is renamed by Mitra as Aryavrata. The warrior devas settle down into a life of non-action in the heaven like meadow of Gandhara till Indra comes of age. Indra, Vayu, Agni, Soma and Varuna – turned orphans by that fatal war, these five have sworn allegiance to each other and will not part come what may. Indra’s crown has a caretaker and the caretaker has a son. As expected with ambition brews trouble and thus begins Indra’s first conquest towards his ambitions of conquering the entire known world.
First he claims his birthright and with his band of young devas and his four friends he sets out, first to Susa – the vanquishers of his father and then to the world beyond. What follow are gory battles, plunderings, rapes, rampage et al – the devas had returned to their way of life: wars. Indra is jet setting on the path of destiny fulfilling the prophecy he was destined to, along with getting addicted to a heady brew made by his friend Soma, believing that he is god, along with his four friends and behaving every bit of a brat that amar chitra katha stories pronounce him to be and finally crosses over into the Indian subcontinent – into Harappa. Though he fulfills his prophecy there, he also meets a group of people – Rishis, who finally entrap Indra and his devas into a honey-coated birdcage – The Swarga.
While Rajiv Menon makes a good debut attempt in expanding the boundaries, taking the story of an aryan god beyond the boundaries of the Indian subcontinent and Himalayas, the major drawback is the connect. I was not able to connect to Indra as someone from the culture or stories of my country especially with the physical description of blue eyes and golden hair. As a reader emotionally the only phase where you feel for Indra is till he righteously claims his birthright and also his relationship with Sachi but thereafter when he attains powers and wrecks havoc, he comes across as a brutal, heartless tormentor. I did seriously wish someone would come along and defeat the hero of the book. Once Indra is out of Gandhar, ‘Thundergod’ is an unending saga of attacks, weapons, rolling heads, gory battle details and the sorts, which after a while lags down the narration and the suspense element especially towards the climax where essentially it should have been is nearly missing. Most of the reasoning for the powers of Indra and his cronies are magical but not logical. Also a map is most essential in a narration dealing with history and places, the book lacks one leaving a lot to speculation and if you slept through your geography classes – god bless!
There is a mix of Indian-ness and nonIndian-ness in the book, which hasn’t really mixed in very well, there are particles floating up on the mixture. Though the end of the book hints at a sequel, I would love to read a tighter narrative in the second part. Read it for the bravery and go-out-there-and-win attitude of Indra vis-à-vis the popularly depicted cowardly run-at-the-first-sighting-of-trouble image.
p.s. Westland Ltd. may want to look into the author’s name on the book – the one on the book jacket and the one inside are different.
This review is based on the uncorrected proof of the book from the publishers; the final copy may be different from the material that was read for the review.
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