Review: Spy from Unaula by Alok Kumar


Introduction:

The story is set in pre-independent India spanning over a life time of a character. The story follows Ram, who born in a remote village Unaula and his adventures as he frees himself from the bondage of social prejudices and backwardness of the uneducated society there. He is inspired and supported by his brother Bhagwati right from the beginning.

What I like about the story:

The content of the story is very unique, fresh and something we don’t see in present piles of romance, mythology and crime-thriller novels. The characters are normal, real-life people and events are told in good detail (the war with Japanese, the process of selection, the atmosphere of death). Especially I like the sketched images which frequently try to bring out the scenes going on in the book. It has social messages, about how a little person from some remote village can become big.

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Critical Comments:

The narration puts me off, to be honest. It is top to bottom telling in dull way. The story here is huge and if it is written with more patience it could become a 400+ pages epic, whereas solely due to the school text-book style telling, the book is merely 210 pages long. For example, it is not enough if one tells me that Ram is courageous and nervous at the same time. One can show that simply by his actions (like he elopes from his house just before 2 days of his forced-marriage but at the same times, trembles, cries sobs, wanting for water etc. when he is walking away from his home.) Or if one really wants to stick to telling, he should use similes, allegories to evoke cruelty, humor in the tone. For example, let see if the same situation can be written like : Fifty kilos of weight, he felt such pride and determination that he could alone conquer even Achilles if he tried to force him to marry that unknown girl, who definitely was not a decedent of Helen. By the way, when Bhagwati fights against Japanese in army of British, I have expected the mention of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, who was using the Japanese force to create the menace British felt.

To be Specific:

Plot:

The plot is has potential, as I have mentioned before. You’d agree with me after completing the journey of the characters in this book.

Dialogue:

It is natural and okay, but the amount of dialogue is very less in this book which is not compensated by good narration.

Characterisation:

It is good but could become livelier with more developed style of presentation. I wanted to feel the same disappointment was Ram was prevented from going to school, I wanted to feel the tension Ram felt when he was leaving his home forever.

Pacing:

Unnecessarily fast which neither creates the thrill it intends to create, nor allows the reader to feel for the characters.

Narrative:

It is mentioned in critical comments section.

Editing:

Not many typographical and grammatical errors. It’s neat.

Resolution:

Satisfying but could have been of more impact.

Overall impression:

A good read for readers searching for something new based on Indian setting which could become a far better piece of novel.

3 out of 5.

Amazon Link.

View my other reviews.

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How to receive a review (both positive and negative)


A book can get both positive and negative criticism from a reviewer. This post is about how to handle such criticisms. Now, if you search in internet, there will be plenty of posts regarding handling a negative criticism, but no one tells you about the positive one. We shall try to discuss that too in this post.

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Before reading any review, remember the following:

1. The reviewer has invested 6-10 hrs of his time on your work. He has the right to voice his say.
2. If he thinks his time is wasted by reading your work, he can say bad things about your work.
3. If you get offended by that (and yes, you have also the right to get offended), you should be okay with it. Tastes vary.
4. If a reviewer tells that “this part of this novel is crap, and should have been written in this or that way”, it doesn’t establish that the reviewer himself can write the way he has expected to read.

Read the last sentence again.

Now, let us divide our discussion in 2 parts.

  1. Handling Positive Criticism: If you get positive views from someone about your work, then pat yourself, you deserve it. You should use this praise to boost your confidence and work harder to bring better work. 36657610-Cartoon-of-businessman-dog-receiving-excellent-performance-review-he-is-a-good-dog--Stock-PhotoBut I have seen in many cases, the recipient gets so inflated that he refuses to work hard anymore. Remember, every work will require equal and preferably more effort than you have put in your previous work. So boost your confidence with positive criticism but don’t become overconfident. If you become overconfident, points in italic in following will happen.
  2.  Handling Negative Criticism: If someone bashes your book showing valid reasons, analyze if those reasons are at all valid for you. In many cases, the reviewer may not get your intentions or visions. In those cases, as you are the creator and know more about what you are doing, you may (not must) ignore those points. But this is the way we've always done it.- Barron's Cartoon - by Kaamran Hafeez.

    Source – Barron’s Cartoon – by Kaamran Hafeez.

    On the other hand, if a good reviewer gives negative review and justifies his points with enough reasons and examples, preserve the review and apply the lessons learned from it. Due to overconfidence, if you respond with hostility to the review and ignore everything he has said, two things will happen: people will get a pretty good idea about your nature and you lose the chance to learn from your mistakes which you will iterate in your next works.

So, that’s it about receiving a review. This is the last post about reviewing and receiving them. Coming up: few short-stories, few discussions on books, some amazing workshops/articles/interviews by various well-known authors and a serialized post about something (I’ll reveal later). 🙂