What an appalling set of novels! The first two books in The Meluha Trilogy by Amish Tripathi are so god awful that I am not sure how they made it to the bestseller list. Has the taste of the Indian reading public fallen to such depths? What lowest common denominator do these novels cater to?
Writing a fantasy novel is no mean feat especially when you are taking on deeply well-known Indian mythological and divine characters. You would think any writer would be cautious in his presentation and tone. After all you are trying to rewrite an already well told story, you need to do a good if not better job.
Amish apparently did not worry about these things. Language, character development and plot, all founding pillars to a successful novel are not his concern. The trilogy tracks the journey of Shiva, a Tibetan tribal leader to becoming the Neelkanth, the savior of the people of India. Amish’s central concept is interesting – that all Indian Gods must have been mortals with unnatural achievements, which led them to worshipped, and there is a story that must be told. But the yarn that he spins is so lousy.
Some of friends who liked these books argued with me that he may have been limited by liberties with what he could take with religious figures. Even so, what excuse is there for the slipshod language? The books first sentence says the year is and 1900 BC and you have Shiva sprouting words like “Damn” and “Bloody Hell”. It’s not just that he swears in such modern way. It is that every fifth sentence out of his mouth starts with “What the hell…”. Dialogs are so poorly written that they sound like casual conversations of Indian college kids over coffee – sensible but not coherent or necessarily grammatically correct. Amish – it’s 1900 BC, you can’t have people speaking in contemporary slang. You can’t use words like immigration, operating rooms, police! As a reader I am trying to mentally trying to place the world that you have created and with these modern words I keep coming back to 21st century. It just does not work.
The novel is also very conversation based – everyone is talking to someone or the other. And with that quality of writing, the sheer quantity of dialogs is painful to wade through. Descriptions are bare minimum and not detailed, whatever exist are clearly inspired by Lord of The Rings. Amish clearly has no visualization of ancient India. A fantasy novel has to foremost succeed in creating an alternate world, whether it’s on earth or elsewhere. I am none the wiser about the land of Meluha after reading two books.
The detailed battle scenes are annoying and distracting. I think Amish was thinking of a movie deal when he wrote those, as to how he would like the dance sequences to be choreographed.
The character development is poor if not negligible. None of the characters, including Shiva, have any depth.
I want to take two examples of writers from India who have written in a similar genre and have done so much of a better job. If you have time to spare, it’s their books that you should be reading instead of this.
The Gameworld Trilogy by Samit Basu is a way better attempt at this genre by an Indian writer. Granted it’s not based on Indian Gods, but Basu’s command on language and character with a reasonably intricate plot makes it a page turner. The world that he creates is detailed, colorful, magical just like his characters. You care what happens to Kirrin, Maya and Asvin. The first two novels in the series are a must, must read.
The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee, tackles the story of Mahabharata from Draupadi’s point of view. Imagine how constricted Banerjee’s freedom must be in telling such a universally well-known tale. She worked within the same constricts as Amish does, and did such a fabulous job. The language was beautiful and new dimensions were added to characters that you knew since childhood.
Seriously, I don’t have one reason to recommend The Meluha Trilogy to anyone.