Tuesday 8 April 2014

Book Review: Time's Lost Atlas

About the Book:

Title: Time's Lost Atlas
Author: Various Authors. (Anthology)
Compiler: Harsh Agarwal
ISBN: 9788192692
Publisher: Half Baked Beans Publishing
Language: English
No. of pages: 252
Year of Publication: 2014

Ready to travel to Pakistan, London, Nepal, China, New York, India, in one single book?
With 11 stories encompassing 11 major events of the last decade, this anthology is a concoction of tragedy, romance, mystery and thriller, brewed to perfection to ensure a nail biting experience.
Reminisce and relish the events which shook the world. Breathe the freshness of past, dive into the reasons that shaped the world as it is now, walk through your bygone times, fly across the continents marking your longest journey ever - for you hold the Time's Lost Atlas in your hand.
Story behind the compilation (by Harsh Agarwal):
The idea was conceived around two year back when I was working with an organization named The Fountain Pen Guild. The basic aim was to provide a platform to novice authors. Interestingly, in two years, few are no more novices and have published their novels already!
It was a very tough task. The list of authors which was first created is much different from the new list which is finally getting published. Because of time constraints, quality and everything, we have to keep on changing the authors. It required a lot of coordination, countless phone calls, editing sessions and a lot of struggle. But, in the end, I feel it was all worth it!
(Details taken from his Interview with Privy Trifles)
List of Stories and Author Links:
  1. Beneath - by Budhaditya Bhattacharjee | Snapshot from the book
  2. The Motown Conspiracy - by Sakshi Shrivastava | Snapshot from the book
  3. The One and Only Purpose - by Geetha Madhuri | Snapshot from the book
  4. In The Dark - by Pooja Wanpal | Snapshot from the book
  5. The Rising - by Malavika Poy Singh | Snapshot from the book
  6. The Filch - by Namrata | Snapshot from the book
  7. A Symphony of Concurrences - by Vishal Bagaria | Snapshot from the book
  8. Pangs of Pain - by Shruti Jain | Snapshot from the book
  9. United We Fall - by Anurag Anand | Snapshot from the book
  10. Innocents at War - by Adwitiya Borah | Snapshot from the book
  11. The Victims - by Vishnu Vardhanan | Snapshot from the book
The Review:
In General: 
Even though I am very much tempted, it would be inappropriate to disclose the actual events these stories are based on. So, I will let the readers figure out for themselves as they read each and every (beautifully woven bead) story that make this anthology.
This book was given as a gift to me by my friend Namrata (most of us know her as Privy Trifles), who is also one of the Authors of the Anthology. I am thankful to her for introducing me to such a wonderful book, which, otherwise I might have not got the chance to read.
To select Eleven events and allot the Eleven events to Eleven Authors is a big task, I cannot even imagine undertaking. Therefore, hats off to Harsh Agarwal for his arduous efforts which resulted in this wonderful book.
Having being allotted Eleven Actual Events that influenced lives of many people and wove a fiction story around it (under the huge shadow of the actual event) is yet another amazing thing to do and I must congratulate each and every author for being able to do that.
About Each Story:
  • Beneath - After reading 'about the author' in the book (see snapshot above) I knew what I had to expect from this author. The author succeeds in creating suspense which is the highlight of the event this author has been allotted. CIA agents and informant, the way of writing does justice to the story. At a few places though I found it difficult to read and understand what was written AND imagine the scene at the same time (the way I like to read). It took a while for me to figure out the 'event' the author has written about.
  • The Motown Conspiracy - Simple and interesting at the same time. The readers like me, who did not know about the event mentioned in the story needed very little time to figure out. Moving out of the facts and into the fiction, one is kept busy thinking is this real or fiction? A perfect story on conspiracy/betrayal.
  • The One and Only Purpose - No points for figuring out the event. The author has not tried to keep the reader guessing. That, perhaps, is intentional because the author describes the event beautifully and the end brings a smile to your face and fills your heart with hope. Purpose served, I assume. Yet another simple story and well-written.
  • In The Dark - This is my favourite from the Anthology. (Even though my friend is one of the authors, I would vote for Pooja if I am asked to select the best out of the Eleven Authors.) "I detest darkness. I simply hate it. Hate it with a passion of a thousand fiery suns and then some." As I read these lines, I knew I was going to enjoy reading this story. The language of the author is simple, it helps me to let reading and visualising run together and not try to catch up with one another. The emotions of the character 'Faiz', his fears, his beliefs and his fate is well described. His involvement in the event is perfect example of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  • The Rising - My second favourite from the Anthology. Kept me hooked till the end. The protagonist Prabhat who is a journalist is portrayed beautifully. The first time Prabhat meets the little girl is well-written. The hardships and loss of the people involved in the event well described. The innocence of the little girl Apsara and the answers she gives to questions asked by Prabhat makes you want to pick up the little girl and hug her.
  • The Filch - I would rate this story high on the scale of emotions more than the scale of facts. The way this story has been written is just the way I like to read. (This has nothing to do with the fact that the story is written by my friend). The description of restlessness of the protagonist, the frustration, the trust and the betrayal he faces is beautifully written. If you are an emotional person, this will hit you straight in your heart. Trust me. Though, I could not figure out what event the author has described. She had to tell me about the event. All that we can make out is that the story is about betrayal. 
  • A Symphony of Concurrences - This is one story, which I feel could have been written better. The story is good, once again betrayal being the theme but it is not gripping. Do not know whether it is because of the previous story but this one is low on the scale of emotions. The sweaty chest-line visible through three unbuttoned shirt does not exactly bring out the 'desire' in me. Also, there is a strong statement in the story, which comes as a friendly advice to the female protagonist. (linking certain people to certain actions). Personally, I did not like it. In the entire story the female protagonist is mentioned in third person, however towards the end the author mentions her in first person. This is either because of deep involvement in writing or boredom. I do like how the story shifts from the present time, to a particular date in past and back to present and then swings ahead to a particular date, supposedly to be in future with reference to the story told before. 
  • Pangs of Pain - The story does justice to the title, the author succeeds in bringing out the pain in us. A story about natural disaster, however, with a twist of betrayal neatly woven into the story. Frankly speaking, it was totally unexpected and shocking for me and along with the pain another feeling surfaced, that of anger. The only weak point of the story is that it is too slow at times, giving an impression that the author is merely trying to fill in the words to reach a mark.
  • United We Fall - This story proves that there is a very thin line between fiction and reality. Well-written. The description, the communication between the characters beautifully handled. The trust, hopes, dreams, wishes and the message that humans can make mistakes that end disastrously is well expressed.
  • Innocents at War - Thought-provoking story. Very beautifully written. We have already read a lot about this and such events and have asked ourselves a question - why? We do the same as we read this story through the eyes of the journalist who gets stuck between the "Innocents" at war. The narration is too good, makes the reader go through the event and run along with the journalist, heart in hand. The helplessness of the protagonist could have been written in a more convincing manner, though.
  • The Victims - I love the writing style of the author. "Trees scaled high to reach the sky in an attempt to strip the blue off and paint it with all the generous green it had." These words had me spell-bound. As the story progresses, the author introduces the 'event' in a very catchy manner. The thoughts of the protagonists expressed in an amazing way. We all know what effect this event has left on us Humans, this heart-wrenching story succeeds in bringing out that emotion. I'd say this is my third favourite from the anthology. 
Overall, a good book to have in your collection. Do not expect to finish reading it in a day. The stories are fictions based on actual events, the mind needs time to process that. A story per day sounds like a good way to read the book.

The verdict:

Cover - Attractive. The cover design is what makes the reader hold the book in his/her hand and tempts them to read.
Title - Intriguing. Tempts the reader further.
Pricing - 175 INR, definiltely worth the content. I would have bought the book even if it had been higher range.
Quality - Overall .. the cover, pages, font style, everything is worth the penny spent.
Fonts - Good for someone like me who reads mainly at nights.
Characters - Well described/defined
Narration - Overall .. good. Could have been better in a few stories
Language - Easy. The first story is an exception though. Overall ... language is one of the strong points of the book
Flow - Easy
Description - I loved the blurb.
Story line - Each and every story is interesting.
Reader’s expectations - It is always better to start reading a book without too much of expectations. Even if you have expectations from TLA, I would say you would find it up to the mark.
Overall rating of the book - 8/10

I must admit that it is a shame, almost all the stories in the book are more about violence, conspiracy and betrayal. Makes the reader wonder, is this the world we are living in? That said, I also would like to mention that the authors have done justice to each and every event mentioned. Also, I would love to see a Love Anthology compiled by Harsh. Someday.

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