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An exciting ride

Krishnan Srinivasan | New Delhi |

These two books are of high quality. Jerry Pinto is a prize-winning writer and there is no question of his considerable abilities. In this serial-murder mystery, Pinto weaves an intricate plot around the male homosexual/gay community in Mumbai, and where a retired journalist joins hands with a police inspector in search of the culprit or culprits. The narrative moves easily enough and some of the best scenes are when the two protagonists are together, which gives Pinto a chance to introduce some humour into the proceedings at the expense of Inspector Jende.

Nevertheless, there are serious flaws that Pinto would do well to correct. His long and quasi-intellectual digressions into the nature of homosexuality and the sale of sex are tedious, unnecessary and stall the momentum; there are no physical descriptions of the main characters, not even by implication; his female characters are mere stick-people or cut-outs with no personality whatever, and the most convincing lines are written for the minor walk-on parts.

The leading gay character is a caricature ad absurdum, which does not do the author or the gay community any favours. If Pinto meant this to be a humorous aspect, it does not succeed. He would do better to leave his good cause campaign and soap-box elsewhere than in his writing. Having said all that, Pinto is a writer with talent and the fact that he obviously has the skill to iron out these defects make it possible to look forward to his next book, whether of the same crime fiction genre or another. On the other hand, Ken Liu is a USbased, much nominated writer for various prizes, and this book of short stories fully substantiates his reputation. His imagination is boundless, his fantasy is tremendous and his recitation is swift, concise and telling with abundant humanity and sentiment. Above all, his fiction embarks on a new voyage, that of the world of tomorrow and the use of advanced and scarcely imaginable technology. When one considers the prospect of the development of the novel, from the age of Lawrence Sterne through Jane Austen to Evelyn Waugh, Doris Lessing and the grit of Jose Saramago, where indeed are we headed? Possibly the next generation of fiction writers may well focus on the new world of informatics, implants and physical enhancements, not through drugs but by way of voluntary surgery. Crime may be committed through Whatsapp messages and Facebook posts, and Ken Liu takes us boldly into this world, with his characters just on the right side of credibility. This book of short stories is worth reading for a glimpse of the future, or at least, the future of novel-writing. So it is an exciting ride.

The reviewer is India’s former Foreign Secretary.