For too long have young fiction writers (post-Bhagat) focused on campus romances, corporate angst, and human relationships, for their first book – perhaps due to demands of the market. Interestingly, Sami A Khan’s debut venture explores terrorism and war rather than love and dating. Khan manages to catch the pulse of the times and keeps one’s pulse racing!
Red Jihad is an award-winning, unnervingly prescient, military thriller that deals with a Maoist-Mujahideen nexus set in the backdrop of a bloody Indo-Pak conflict. The novel, ripped from newspaper headlines, is quite well-researched. Consequently, the plot blurs the boundaries between fact and fiction. The year is 2014 AD. Religious fundamentalists and left-wing extremists find themselves a common enemy: a secular, democratic state. The contours of South Asian politics are in the process of changing, and ideologies are re-arranging themselves to fit into a new world order. In a world governed by baser instincts and parochial worldviews, how smooth can this transition be? The exposition forms the backbone of the story. Red Jihad is full of mind-numbing twists. It is an intelligent, fun-filled, and fast-paced entertainer that is loaded with drama, thrill, and suspense.
This thriller fuses pop fiction with meaningful writing that entertains and educates. However, the plot has no single protagonist around whom the story revolves, whom I felt could have made the novel even more effective. Also, sometimes the details of weapons (which Khan gives aplenty) could have been done without. Thankfully, there’s no token female in Red Jihad that the genre thriller loves!
Khan brings Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum to the streets of Delhi. From corridors of power of 7 RCR, to the impact of larger events on people ranging from Uri to Andamans, Khan portrays an India in crisis – and how the bureaucracy, the military and the political establishment try to resolve the situation. Moreover, the novel has its heart in the right place and ends with a pro-peace appeal, making Red Jihad a war novel that carries an anti-war message! Seems to be another Bollywood film in the making!