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Book Reviews!

Yes, you are reading it correct! The last 2 days had me polish off 2 books from my 2-read list! One was being read since a year and a half!, while the other one was read in a day and a half!

The first book was ‘borrowed’ from a friend and as the author has penned books like “Fear is the key”, “Ice station zebra”, “Guns of Navarone”, “Where eagles dare”, the expectations were high! The author is none other than the master story teller, Alistair MacLean!

The fact that he is amongst my favourite writers and that it took me a year and a half to read his book, speaks much about “The dark crusader”. To be honest, I was disappointed as the plot of the book succeeded in capturing my interest but failed to hold it. Sure, it got interesting as well as exciting, but having read many of his books, I was not as much impressed with this one.

While the narrative in the story is at par with Mr. MacLean’s descriptive standards, i think it is the plot and the twists that are to be blamed for my disappointment. The book is good but it is not amongst his best work. Reading The Dark Crusader felt like it was written for a B-grade thriller movie that introduces too many twists in the plot and unravels a lot towards the end.

The major twist in the book comes after the reader has finished reading the book. Reading the Epilogue makes one re-think the story from a completely different angle, but it is a tad hard to digest!

The story does start out well and the narration of the encounters between the goodies and baddies is very well written as is expected out of a MacLean book! For readers who are not familiar with his work, such are his descriptions, the writing can make you feel cold on a hot Indian summer night! (Ice station Zebra), it can make you feel claustrophobic in the hull of an underwater machine (Fear is the key) and make you visualise a girl dangling on a chain (Puppet on a chain)!

In summary, this one is not to lose sleep over. It aint bad, but it definitely aint the best from the author. Somewhere between 2.5 to 3 stars out of 5!


The next book was read fairly quickly! It was my first book by an Indian author and if you are an avid reader of fiction, you probably have read it. Its “five point someone” by Chetan Bhagat. While there were strong positive reviews about the book, I was warned by a few good readers and friends about the bad lingo (grammar) in the book. Thus my expectations from the book were rather low and in the end, it turned out to be what I expected it to be – a book that was average in its literature, but one that scored high in storytelling.

The best thing about the book was the POV writing. The easy-breezy style of writing and the ‘feel’ given by the book instantly made the reader connect to the protagonist/s as most readers have studied in Indian education establishments.

The book introduces the readers to various stigmas about the Indian society and Indian schools like – ragging, mugging, dowry, parental pressure, peer pressure on students, lack of innovation in IIT, the ‘systemic’ way of judging a student based on his past performance, etc. While the author touches these subjects, he does not attempt to present any solutions to most the problems, thus avoiding being preachy. This keeps the book light and makes it an easy read because the author has really dumbed down many things about the life of an IIT student for the layman to understand.

However, the flaw of the book also resides in this dumbing down and un-preachy writing approach as it makes the book uninteresting for someone who knows about the IIT life! Many things about life on an IIT campus are missing from the book and it feels like – to present a POV effect, the author wore blinds that are put on a horse’s eyes to keep it from veering off its his path! In other words, the book is too simple and light to be appreciated by an avid book reader! The language is not classy by any measure! It is crass, much like an un-showered, drunk, below-average engineering student! However, like an un-showered, drunk, below-average engineering student’s life, the book is equally interesting in its story telling! The connection with the characters is instant and it holds throughout the book – this, combined with the short length, makes the book un-put-down-able!

This book deserves multiple ratings…. A) If you are an IIT student, the rating is 2/5 B) If you are an avid book reader, the rating is 2.75/5 C) If you are a reader who is starting to read books OR if you want to start with Indian authors, the rating for this book is 3/5. D) If you want to read something light and breezy, the rating is 3.5/5 For CB fans, its 4/5!

  1. yoganand kore
    April 14, 2010 at 17:42

    I started Maclean when i was in school and have never given up re-reading him several times over..he continues to be one of my favourite writers. Maclean has been accused of being repetive (by the way havent Fleming and his Bond been?)…this, in my opinion, is a very harsh and unjust criticism of Maclean.And so i thought this was as good a topic as any for my phd dissertation. In the dissertation i argued that, far from being formuliac, Maclean has extremely interesting novelty.His hereos are in the classic mould of all thriller hereos.Three kinds of people populate the Maclean world:the good guys, the bad guys and the people(on whose behalf the hero endeavors) who cannot distinguish between the two-for the first two of them use essentially the same violent methods.Thus, in ‘When Eight Bells Toll'(one of Maclean’s best novels and the only one amomg his novels to be set in his home country-Scotland), Sue Kirkside tells Phillip Calvert,the hero,’You’re just as bad as they are. You’re a terrible man. You’re a killer’.(p289,Harper Collins,2005).What seperates the hero and the villian,in Maclean, is the motivation for deploying violent means=for a Maclean hero(who is constantly beaten up), money is the least of the consideration that will propel him into action(‘You mean to say you get beaten up,shot down,half-drowned..just for a lousy paycheque?What makes you tick?Why the hell do you do it?,p269,ibid).What makes the hero ‘tick’ is a burning desire to rid the world of fiends-cynics may that they(the Maclean hereos) are incurably and hopelessly romantic. But the question is-what would the world be without them?

  2. December 20, 2009 at 19:06

    Personally i liked the book, but find that I enjoyed Two states more.

  3. August 21, 2009 at 22:50

    Have you read William Diehl? He may sound common and nondescript but I read Primal Fear by the author last week and was absolutely dazed for a good three days.

    • August 22, 2009 at 04:27

      Will pick out William Diehl… have not heard of the author, but sounds like a good read. Hope the book’s not too thick! 😀
      Thanks for the recco….

  4. August 21, 2009 at 22:43

    How can you guys ever discuss MacLean without mentioning HMS Ulysses (which is btw different from James Joyce’s controvertial work ‘Ulysses’). And there was Alastair MacNeill alright, but their genres were so poles apart that you could sniff them from a distance. Whereas MacLean’s booke were platonic thrillers, MacNeill went completely over the top with his overdose of sex and gory violence.

    • August 22, 2009 at 04:26

      if i read HMS Ulysses (i do remember it from memory), I have forgotten the story… so I need to pick it up again! Did the ship have a screen that rotated @ high speed to clear the view? and it gets broken and then someone has to navigate the ship thru a storm??
      I have not read Alastair MacNeil…. the good part about the MacLean was the vivid descriptions without the gore… and the descriptions of military equipments were accurate! so it also meant increasing GK.

  5. August 21, 2009 at 21:51

    Read Twilight..super awesome

    • August 22, 2009 at 04:19

      hmmmm…. loved the movie… ! book to pata nahi…. prolly wont 😀

  6. August 21, 2009 at 00:13

    Mclean was my dad’s and bro’s favourite. Because they pushed me, I read Puppet on a chain. But must say i love the movies…more so for Gregory Peck.

    Chetan bhagat is good for train journeys. His 3 mistakes of my life was tolerable.Didn’t like the other 2 much.

    And to answer your question, in Powai.

    • August 21, 2009 at 11:51

      How did you find puppet on a chain? I remember liking it when I read it… About CB, I hear this one is best and other 2 suck… now you tell me something different… powai is close by… if there is a group meet planned, would you like to be a part of it?

  7. thefriendlygiant
    August 19, 2009 at 17:54

    I forgot:

    Five Point Someone : Okay

    One Night @ the Call Center : Ridiculous!! (I’ve heard the movie’s worse..)

    3 mistakes of my life : is an embarrassing movie script.

    • August 21, 2009 at 11:52

      your feedback agrees with that of the rest of the readers. will give mr. bhagat the miss.

  8. thefriendlygiant
    August 19, 2009 at 17:49

    My old favourite! I’ve read almost all MacLean books in school. I liked Seawitch the best, for some reason..

    😀 Swine flu fear got to you too! I’ve been watching The Big Bang Theory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Big_Bang_Theory) instead! Very nerdy, very very funny!!

    Am moving to WordPress too, but site’s not ready yet..

    • August 21, 2009 at 11:55

      Might have read seawitch.. .did it have a ship that had a screen that rotated at high speed to allow visibility during storms? a captain and his first mate called bosun?? and a nurse on board? I had watched some episodes of the big bang theory. it is good once you start following it!

  9. Ava
    August 18, 2009 at 21:57

    I agree .. 5 point someone is kinda ok read. But it is his best so far. One Night at Call Centre dipped lower and dont ask me about 3 mistakes as I didnt read it, expecting nothing great. I think one big factor in his popularity is also the low price of the book. Plus its readable and makes general public feel you are an intellectual. I see ‘Chetan Bhagat’ filled in place of quizzes asking for ‘favorite author’ and I groan. But challo..

    I adored Alistar Mclean, but havent picked him up since school, which is like .. um.. well, I dont want to give my age away. Sorry to see he has degenerated.

    • August 21, 2009 at 11:58

      H Ava,
      I think you are right.. at under 100/- rupees, his books are priced cheap with a feel good factor to them. well, to each their own, its not like he forced people to buy books, if the people like it, good for CB. Will I pick up another of his books? NO.
      Every author has their good and their not-so-good works… I think I ran into Mr. MacLean’s latter in this book.
      Thanks for commenting 🙂

  10. August 18, 2009 at 13:18

    Wah! a book review from you is very refreshing 🙂
    Courtesy- Swine flu?? 😉

    Hmmm haven’t read any of the MacLean’s books.. With Chetan Bhagat, I enjoyed it more as it was read during the college days. Light and a very quick read 🙂
    But trust me, his other 2 books are not half good as this one!

    • August 18, 2009 at 15:40

      ha ha ha – swine flu is right 😛 You should try MacLean – awesome writer…. I’ve heard about other CB books being bad – will give them a miss!

  11. Vee
    August 17, 2009 at 22:55

    Alistair….Wow… Was amongst my favs in college… But I did not know he wrote ‘Guns of Navarone’ too… I have seen the movie and its simply awesome..

    You started reading Indian Authors and you did so with CB… Jai Ho!!! Lol, I am an Avid reader and I wont rate the book 2.75. Prolly 2.

    • August 17, 2009 at 23:35

      Hi Vee,
      yep Guns of Navarone and Where Eagles Dare are both awesome! And started would be a misnomer. I read one and now i’m done! (dear god, that rhymes!)

  12. August 17, 2009 at 19:00

    I liked Mclean, but as a teenager never could appreceate his penchant for detail. he is one author on my list for whom I can say that the films made on his book are better than reading the book itself. But now, at times I go through his books, like Ice station Zebra for instance and I enjoy them. I liked 5point someone. Its the best chetan has wriiten, read his other books as well, they are very bad!!

    • August 17, 2009 at 20:38

      Yea, reading so much details does require a certain amount of patience! I have to agree with you, the films are also very well made – Guns of navarone and where eagles dare! Classics!
      Thanks for the warning on CB. I will save time and devote it to other more worthy books, but then again, you never know! 😀 Atleast, I was warned!

  13. August 17, 2009 at 18:53

    spike!!!!!! rubbing my eyes here at the book reviews 😀 i used to love mclean, and dont recall reading this one. recently i re-read caravan to vaccares and was disappointed with it so have not re-read some of my fav ones to keep fond memories alive … which one is ur fav? also, have u read any work by alastair macneill ? 🙂 i picked them up in the library because i got confused with the author name but i remember enjoying them immensely at the time. they’re work based on mclean’s plots but written by other authors (i think after his death). not much to say about bhagat but am impressed with the variable ratings at the end of the review. and do u really find a the drunk engg student’s life that interesting?

    • August 17, 2009 at 20:34

      ha ha ha – see, the swine flu in the air can do strange things to people 😀
      As for the book, I think you have not missed much by giving it a miss. My fav, it has to be the 1st one I read – Fear is the key! Ice station zebra was also good. The movies were equally well directed. I watched Where eagles dare a few months ago – the music used in the movie had a great effect on the story! The ropeway antics leave you gasping at moments even though you know nothing is going to happen.
      Have not read alastair macneill! Sounds like a cheap imitation, but then you have vouched for it being good! The history of the original MacLean is also interesting.
      Bhagat was ordinary as a writer – the only thing I liked about the book was the easy-breezy style and that the one-two main threads of the story were flowing nicely throughout the book. Hey hey hey! Life of an engg student can be interesting – as is illustrated in the book 😉 If you have whacky friends, it can be even more so!

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