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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Chronicler of the Undead: WTF, bizarre, and likeable

The acronym WTF is not a part of my daily vocabulary. However, I could not help but use it to describe Chronicler of the Undead, mostly for lack of words. To call the book good or bad will be an injustice to either word: once again, for lack of words, I will go with wacky.

Let me give the basic storyline, without giving away spoilers. The book revolves around a zombie apocalypse (a genre somewhat unexplored in India) in Gangtok with a sole survivor.

What stands out in Chronicler of the Undead is the psychological transformation of the protagonist throughout the book: it starts with the basic instinct of survival (which will probably come to me in the unlikeliest event of a zombie apocalypse) before venturing into other psychological aspects, not necessarily dark.

The first few chapters (small ones, may I assure you) oscillate between past and present. We get a peek into the background of our hero, of his days in the Army and his ability to success and failure during his military days, and his buried ambition of becoming a writer.

The plotline then deviates, and I must stop here for fear of giving away spoilers. All I can say is that the location of Gangtok, both topographical and political, is extremely crucial in the story.

In the end, of course, like most books where Man is pitted against non-Man (nature or otherwise), it comes down to survival; and the choice between survival and humanity; and the choices made to fulfil the goal.

The book is fast-paced. The book is split into small chapters (sometimes less than a page). It is perfectly believable, for every chapter represents a journal entry, though exactly why someone would keep a journal during a zombie apocalypse is, despite the explanation, somewhat inconceivable.

The small chapters should have made it easy to keep the book aside for a night’s sleep, but there is something about Mainak Dhar’s style that makes you keep turning the pages until you realise you are almost through.

The other aspect is the author’s sense of humour, which, again, is weird and unusual. There are moments when you feel it is too light a tone, but then, more often than not do you find yourself smiling and nodding without realising that you are doing the same.

All in all, it is worth a buy. Do not expect a path-breaking horror book. However, do expect a zombie book full of gore, but handed with a touch of delicacy so subtle that you chuckle when you are not supposed to.

Why did I review this, then? As I mentioned, Chronicler of the Undead is extremely WTF in a likeable sort of way.

I guess I will pick up Dhar’s bestselling Alice in Deadland trilogy, after all. If it is anywhere close to this bizarre, the money will not be wasted.

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