You must remember this is not the story of a quest—this is real life, and not everything happens for a reason.
The Simoqin Prophecies by Samit Basu has been declared to be “India’s first-ever science fiction/fantasy genre novel in English.” The book presents a world overwhelmingly crowded with archetypes, creatures, and characters drawn from mythologies around the world. “Monty Python meets Ramayana,” the blurb on the back of the paperback touts; “Alice in Wonderland meets The Lord of the Rings and Robin Hood meets The Arabian Nights.”
While this referential overload is an ideal situation for some good-humored jabs at some of the more ridiculous or trite genre conventions, I have to admit that “funny fantasy” has never really been my thing. It’s the same reason why, to the consternation of real fantasy fiction aficionados, I’ve never been able to complete a Terry Pratchett novel. I’m all for having a good time, I guess, but for me it’s more about getting a good, well-told story than having a few laughs.
And you know what? I wasn’t always dazzled as I read The Simoqin Prophecies, but there’s not a bad story here, after all. More than just throwing a good-humored pie in the face of fantasy convention, Basu, like all good fantasy authors writing today, was turning convention upside down, holding it up to the light, examining it from different angles, then vigorously shaking it until something intriguing and new tumbled out.
What if the archetypal Dark Lord of fantasy cliché was not as bad a guy as he seems? And what if, despite all appearances to the contrary, his reason for returning from the grave was not to take over the world? These are the kinds of questions posed at the end of the book (along with some questions of a more spoilery nature that I won’t mention here). I have to admit I’m curious what happens next. The sequels, The Manticore’s Secret and The Unwaba Revelations will retain their place on my “Books to Read” shelf.
My Grade: B