In the author’s words, everything is nothing and nothing is everything. We are all atoms. Our senses, therefore, are fooled by Maya (The Illusion), the imagery that our mind recollects for us.
What we believe to be the world around us is really not there. Illusion inextricably binds you until it is over.
At first glance, Agniputr: When Agni First Spoke by Vadhan, immediately gives off the impression that its story is another tale retold- a recycled version of Indian mythology from author’s perspective.
And for that impression, I must blame its cover page and the poor naming of the novel on the author’s part. The mystical design of the cover and the name indicating the Hindu god of fire - Agni, together, create an illusion of the book being based on mythology.
The genre of the novel is prettu unclear till one reaches chapter three in which the author talks about Quantum Mechanics, and Metaphysics, a branch of philosophy which deals with abstract theory with no basis in reality. It is a wonderfully woven story based on science with a rich lode of mystery and fantasy. Also, chapter three sets the roller coaster ride of story in motion with frantic twist and turns.
The story goes 60 years back in time, and is centered around the evil ‘Sutram’, the God of Agony.
In 1940s, a delusional Tantrik’s pupil summons an evil force into the village of Gudem in Andhra Pradesh. By the time he realises his mistake, it is too late and the evil force which has acquired more power, unleashes its wrath on the unsuspecting villagers. Somehow, the local king Surya Prasad limits the destruction by sacrificing himself.
Though the Sutram is restrained, he is not destroyed. Deep beneath the earth, the evil god lurks, gathering immeasurable power. How he gains that power, is not explained in the book.
After 60 years, a native scientist, who is engaged in paranormal activities research, comes to village for his engagement and gets lured into doing the evil lord’s bidding.
While researching the urban legend he disappears, but not before sending the reports to her boss Shiela. She does a detailed research on the topic for which the resources are provided by the Home minister Govind Kiromal - a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Kiromal along with his sinister Tantrik advisor intend to control the evil lord and use his powers to rule the world.
Sheila goes to the village to uncover the reality of Sutram and also to search her missing colleague. There she meets Raghuram Surya, son of Surya Prasad Suraya who is a lawyer by profession.
Raghuram, who until now had been living in the city, had no clue about the evil lurking under the grounds of his castle. Neither does he know about his own legacy. What follows after Shiela and Raghuram come together is a cat and mouse chase with antagonist Kiromal to control Sutram.
The plot of the story is intriguing and engaging. The author has managed to explain science without making it dull with his fluid writing style. He has kept himself away from including long paragraphs on science or boring the readers with details of physics and scientific jargons (which are not meant for everyone).
A science fiction coming from the desk of an Indian author is kind of a surprise, especially at this time, when most Indian authors choose to write love stories.
The characters in the novel are well sketched with details. They have been given enough space to develop.
Even the supporting characters are optimally developed. The plots and counter plots are interestingly woven.
Although it makes for a good read, the novel has its flaws too, namely - unanswered questions, unexplained events and editing errors. The author may choose to answer the unanswered questions and events through a sequel. The editing error could be overlooked unless the reader is a grammar Nazi.
Also, the use of Telugu words in between texts could prove to be a distraction for the person who does not know the language. Furthermore, the Mumbai attack in which Kasab was involved happened on November 26, 2008, not on September 26 as quoted in the book.
Overall, the writer has managed to pen down a remarkable and fast paced book, which keeps the reader glued till the very last line of the story. As one starts reading it, it is impossible to stop before reaching the climax. The ending of the book has been well thought of by the author and is unexpected and extraordinary. The book goes highly recommended for science fiction and thriller lovers.