Author: Mainak Dhar
Publisher: Westland Publishers
While reading Mainak Dhar’s novel 03:02, I was reminded of the television series, Revolution. The series is set in a post-apocalyptic near-future, in the year 2027. Fifteen years earlier, in the year 2012, a worldwide event known as "The Blackout" caused all electricity on Earth, ranging from computers and electronics to car and jet engines, to be disabled permanently. As a result, trains and cars stopped where they were, ships went dead in the water, and aircraft plummeted from the sky and crashed. In the years after the Blackout, people adapted to this new world without electricity. Because government and public order collapsed, several areas are ruled by militias and their generals. Quite similar is Dhar’s setting. While in Revolution the blackout was a global phenomenon, in 03:02, the locale is restricted to Mumbai. The author does mention that other places have also been impacted, but it is basically India’s economic capital that he chooses to highlight.
What sets Dhar’s novel apart from the series is the cause behind the blackout. 03:02 builds off something that is very topical — the threat of terror. In this novel, terror is not something ordinary Indians watch the news or read about on the internet, but something they must confront firsthand. It talks of an attack wherein a deadly threat sweeps through our homeland, threatening our freedom and way of life. With no army or police to help them, ordinary Indians must band together to face this threat and wage a war for our freedom.
Thus far the story held the promise of a big, bold, and brassy adventure and would have certainly been the best read for me. Unfortunately, the storyline all of a sudden takes a dive. Dhar perhaps becomes so enamoured by his protagonist Aadi that instead of paying attention to the story at large, he becomes busy in sketching a larger-than-life character for the hero. When characters take precedence over the story, it is the reader who suffers eventually. What could have been a brilliantly crafted page turner otherwise stays just an above average reading.
What has not been compromised with is the narrative skill that Dhar is known to hide up his sleeves. As usual, his writing style is a neat package with no nonsense showery. He delivers some consistently terrific action scenes that I’ve come to associate with his storytelling (I read another book by the same author and enjoyed it). The crisp writing makes for a pleasant read.
Whether willingly or unwittingly, almost every story has a message to deliver and that message becomes the central idea that marches the narrative onward and ahead. The spark lies within each of us — this is the driving point of Mainak Dhar’s latest release, 03:02, which happens to be a post-apocalyptic novel.
If you haven’t read the book, go get a copy. Read it if not for anything else but for the novelty (at least in the Indian literary market) of the idea behind the book.
About the Author:
After finishing his schooling at Modern School, Barakhamba Road and his under-graduation at Hindu College, Delhi, Mainak Dhar graduated from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. He has spent two decades in the corporate sector starting with Procter & Gamble in India. He spent eighteen years with P&G, fifteen of them outside India across the Asia Pacific region. In 2014, he moved back to India as the CEO of the India operations of a major consumer products multinational. A self-described cubicle dweller by day and writer by night, Mainak is also the author of over a dozen books, some of which have been bestsellers in India and abroad. These books have been translated into Turkish, Vietnamese, Japanese, French, German and Portuguese. He lives in Mumbai with his wife, Puja and their son, Aaditya. When not at work or with his family, he can usually be found working on or thinking about his next book.
* I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
** Picture courtesy: Amazon.in