Review: “The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction Volume 2”

  • লেখক: Debraj Moulick
  • শিল্পী: প্রমিত নন্দী

The second edition of  The Gollancz Book Of South Asian Science Fiction fills up the loops created by the prequel. It is wider in scope and it dives deep into the abyss of the reader’s imagination. This time it is truly South Asian by including entries from Srilanka as well as Tibet apart from the usual trio of India-Pakistan-Bangladesh, yes the work selection is really impressive.

Manjula Padmanabhan’s Graphic Preface is an eye-catcher, the readers are going to enjoy the postmodern graffiti and I guess it is important to acknowledge the realism of the cover picture as well as the image of the flying South Indian temple in the garb of a rocket, loved the propulsion angle. Do not miss Tarun Saint’s introduction as well as the bibliography at the end of the introductory article.

Let us throw a laser light on some of the delicacies offered by Gollancz.

Well, Nazi Germany is known for the concentration camp, it is time you visit the holocaust by Union Jack, the dreadfulness of  Bengal famine comes alive in this horror fantasy when Lordship offers, this exclusively magical and it is the black one. Shiv Ramadas’ And Now His Lordship Is Laughing is full of desi vendetta.

The Traveler by Tashan Mehta provides a sense of magic running through the pages with multiple narrative styles and vivid pictures of out-of-the-world topography.

Muhammed Zafar Iqbal’s The Zoo packs a solid punch of genetics, anthropology, thrill, and yes a definitive twist, in the end, this one pays homage to one of the strange islands of H.G Wells.

In Maker of Memorials, Vajra Chandrasekera brings up a bizarre tale of a unique professional dealing with the creation of history and culture, yes it is one of its kind. Well, Jayprakash Satyamurthy’s Dimensions Of Life Under Fascism is another Orwellian (1984) tale of people living in a country where you cannot skip the occasional mantras (hymns) that appears on digital media and if you are doing it, you are going to fall flat, not at all a flat tale.  While Senna Ahmad’s supernatural girls shine brightly in a grim world and they can do wonders with fire, be careful of such people with such abilities. It is feminist and yes it is definitely a scary story with lots of pathos. Manjula Padmanabhan wrote a climate change SF story where you can get high with polluted air ‘Sharing Air’ (1984) and now she brings a similar concept with The Pain Merchant where the sensation of pain is non-existent and if you want to experience pain, you buy it from the merchant.

Do you want to feel the chill of a cold climate in the tropical city of Kolkata?

Soham Guha’s The Song of Ice (translated by Arunava Sinha) was first published in the celebrated SF magazine Kalpabiswa as Shoiter Gaan which captured apocalyptic snow-bound Kolkata in the future. It provides a captivating plot about a group of survivors, their daily chores as well as the struggle for existence, and as usual Soham punches some humanitarian angle in the story but what strikes me is the study of human psychology where he raises the questions of brotherhood as well as secularism and links it to one of the most celebrated epics of the world.

“Hindus and Muslims could be brothers, but the battle of Kurukshetra was fought among brothers too” (pg 92, The Gollancz Book Of South Asian Science Fiction)

Lavanya Lakshminarayan and Vandana Singh both provide a thought-provoking tale of a female protagonist who discovers their voices one by going back in history while the other through an alien.

Sami Ahmad Khan along with Vandana Singh is one of the few authors whose work has appeared in both the volumes of South Asian SF. Well, the first one provided a fast-paced alien attack in Uttar Pradesh and this time he brings up one of the most celebrated delicacies of South Asia, Biryani. While the first few lines irk the taste buds by doing a comparative analysis of various kinds of biryani. Well Khan’s work is full of political symbolism and like most of his work, this too is lined with the notion of ‘alien-nation’ and yes this one is the most political and violent of all his works. If you are aware of the recent development in world politics, you are in for a spicy treat !! While talking about politics, you cannot afford to miss the  SF of Sukanya Datta. The Midas Touch is an adventure story with biologically engineered tiny beings, an immensely likable character like Golu Mama, and the quest for the El-Dorado. Looney Ka Tabadla is another political satire focusing on the capitalistic outlook of social media influencers, hell of a ride, that journalist angle was too much to handle!!!

Well, according to Star Trek Space is the final frontier and on that note, Gautam Bhatia’s The List is an innovative space opera that speaks about a society stressing the notion of homogenization and the ironic part is that the narration is exceptionally heterogeneous in nature.

If you are an SF fan, if you are in for horror,  if you like the funny bone in a satire, go buy this volume. The dystopian future, the absurdist world, and the threat of climate change all have punched in this hardcover beauty.  The editor should consider more translated works from regional literature. This volume has finally come over the partition hangover of the previous volume and it has become highly political in texture but thankfully there is no sense of propaganda among the letters. In layman’s terms, this one is bigger and better. It is not an easy read, you might feel disturbed but you will go back to this beauty, everybody needs their poison to live. Yes, this volume is intoxicating. Buy it for pleasure and yes buy it for the pain, Manjula Padmanabhan smirks.

Tags: kalpabiswa y7n1, দেবরাজ মৌলিক, প্রমিত নন্দী

One thought on “Review: “The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction Volume 2”

  • June 27, 2022 at 5:06 pm
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    Great going and great contribution to literature! Best wishes for all your endeavours dear Deb sir!

    Reply

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