“It’s fictional. You’re real”

Redshirts by John Scalzi is one of those stories which are difficult to review, without spoiling, but I’m going to try.

The story takes place in post-television 25th century future on an elite DubU ship – Intrepid. It is under the command of captain Abernathy, whose crew include science officer Q’eeng, first office Keerensky, medical office Hartnell and chief engineer West among others. Intrepid is on a peaceful mission to boldly go where no man has gone before. Sounds familiar? Well it should. During its explorations the crew encounters some hostile situations on different worlds, and quiet often there are away teams formed to deal with them.

The novel opens with some new crew members assigned to intrepid. They develop a sort of friendship while waiting for the shuttle in the bay that would take them to the ship. On reaching ship, they are take on their assigned tasks in different departments. They continue to meet when they are off duty, and found out that Intrepid has highest casualties for new crew members among any Dub U’s ships during these away missions, statistically. As they dig more and more, they find that there is some sort of space time continuum mix up where realities from different times seem to have intertwined.

I should stop now, because I think I have already said too much.

John has great ability to define his characters well and then develop them throughout his stories. This novel is no different. The new crew members Dahl (who is the protagonist), Duvall, Hester, Henson have characters that one easily understand when they interact while waiting in the shuttle bay. They do not always agree with each other. They also form a part of some of the away missions, and suffer losses. They start to observe a pattern, which the officers of the ship seem to be oblivious to. Over the course of events, their friendship, beliefs and trust for each other is tested. You start to identify with the characters, and can’t help but want them to control their own fate instead of letting the mixed up timelines decide what happens.

Redshirts does not disappoint at any place. It is a must read if you grew up with TV shows like the original Star Trek, or Dr. Who. The book is a nod to these and other cheesy space adventures of yesteryears. There are dozens of moments and in-jokes built around the worlds that are familiar and hilarious. It is darkly funny at times; even when things go wrong, John puts a smile on your face with interactions of his characters. The story moves at a fast pace, and is extremely well edited. There is nothing that does not add to the story or character development and you are drawn in. If you want to read a fun science fiction story during summer try this one.

If you like listening to books, get the audiobook. It is read by Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher from Star Trek – The Next Generation). Wil is very impressive voice actor, and he brings this book alive with his narration. He has collaborated with the author before in Fuzzy Nation and few others.

Both the book and the audiobook are highly recommended. I give this book 5 stars; hey, anything that can keep me up all night deserves 5 stars.

Jatinder PS Nagi
July 4, 2012

Every Light Cast a Shadow…

A good vs. evil story with an elaborate magic system, set on the background of intriguing political & religious landscape with enough twists and turns to keep you occupied. What else could a fantasy fan want?

Brent Weeks brings the first book of his Lightbringer trilogy “into the light” – The Black PrismHe brought it a while back, I just read it.

Gavin Guile is the Prism, the most powerful man in the world. He is high priest and emperor at Chromeria, a man whose power, wit, and charm are all that preserves a tenuous peace. But Prisms never last, and Guile knows exactly how long he has left to live: Five years to achieve five impossible goals. It’s been 16 years since the Prism Wars and Gavin Guile who single handedly turned the tide of the war has kept peace with his diplomacy and wits over the seven satrapies.

Things change when the Tyrean head, Garadul, decide to break free from Chromeria, and declare himself the king. In order to make an example and show his power, he burns down the whole city of Rekton within Tyrea (his own kingdom). A 15 year old kid, Kip, is the sole witness to burning of Rekton, who loses all his friends and his mother (who was the only family he knew). Circumstances bring Gavin to Rekton and he meets Kip, whom he saves from Garadul. He also uncovers Garadul’s plot to become the king. And things start rolling from there.

The story works at more ways than one. First there is the elaborate magic system. Personally it took me a while to get the feel for it, but once you understand the magic, it is easy. The magic system is based on the light. Light as energy has seven colors. Each color has a characteristic and particular behavior, and of course light of that color is needed in order to use it. The magicians, called drafters, are known as red, green, blue drafter based on what color they can use in drafting. In the nutshell, it is materializing the light (energy) into physical objects (matter). The Prism (of course) can draft all seven colors (and few others beyond the visible spectrum). If you are intrigued, Check out Brent Weeks site (link below) for candle example he gives.

Another level this story works is the political and religious landscape. Before the Prism Wars, there were many gods (called pagan gods in the book), and the war changed everything. Now there is only one – Orholam. The White and the Prism are the religious heads of the land. Further, they, along with representatives from seven satrapies form the political setup of the land. The great city of Chromeria, is where this seat of power resides. Gavin Guile is considered as the best Prism Chromeria. Garadul on the other hand wants to get out of what he feels as the Chromerian-oppression.

This story has lot of twists and turns and not just here and there. The book reads very smooth considering the complexity of the plot. It flows so well that the reader does not realize how complex the story has gotten. My stomach was twisting as Weeks kept throwing luxen after luxen right till the very end. Last hundred pages had me biting my nails and I was shouting “Come on, don’t throw that in there now, the book is ending”.

The book ends satisfactorily and also keeps few (may be many) threads untied; but satisfactory ending all the same. It is a trilogy (as we know now), so many of the threads had to be left untied.

Now, on Brent’s writing. It has matured from the Night Angel trilogy. His style has improved vastly (for my taste) and is very engaging. He uses simpler language, unlike many high fantasy stories will use (there are pros and cons for both); but it works in this novel.

If you are planning to buy the book, then I would recommend the paperback, as it has couple of introductory chapters from the next book in the series The Blinding Knife. I have both hardcover and paperback versions.
It is also the right time to read this, as you may not have to wait too long for the sequel (it is scheduled for later this year).

For audiobook fans, the book has two options – single narrator version read by Cristofer Jean and audio drama from Graphic Audio. I have Cristofer Jean’s version which is well read from Audible.com. The Graphic Audio version is now available as a complete set (I want to get that box set). Both are great depending upon your taste.

In conclusion, this quick page turner is a must read. As always beg, borrow, or buy this book.

Click Here to visit Brent Weeks website.
Do not forget to sign up on the forums, you can interact with the author there.

Click Here to visit Graphic Audio site for The Black Prism.

Click Here to visit Audible.com page for The Black Prism.

Jatinder PS Nagi
January 6, 2012

The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson…

This review is rather late, but the vast reading list I had during later half of 2011 and the release of Battlefield 3 game caused this delay. I was able to finish The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson during my vacations.

Absolutely amazing.

The Alloy of Law takes place 3 centuries after The Well of Ascension in the Mistborn universe. World has changed and Kelsier, Vin, Elend, Sazed, Spook, and the rest are now part of history or religion. Mistborns (Allomancers who can burn all metals) are now found in legends and stories. Mostly, the world now has Mistings (Allomancers who can burn only one metal) or Feruchemists (who can use the metal to safe keep few traits); and few rare individuals who are both (Twinborns). The line of the allomancy is getting thin in bloodlines.

The cities are on the verge of modernization, railways are coming, horse carts will soon be things of the past. There are beaurocratic governments and few nobles have bigger hand in the government. Things have started to slip; nobel houses are competitive (similar to Lord Ruler’s times, as in Mistborn) and corruption has been creeping in.

The lands beyond the cities are called Roughs. The Roughs is where crime and criminals escape the law (and the cities). Few nobles give up the competitive life of the city, and become lawmen of the Roughs to bring these criminals to justice to create a better safer world.

One such is Lord Waxilliam Ladrian (or Wax), a twinborn of reputed nobel house. The predictability of the Roughs makes him feel safe there. His righteousness and honesty has brought many criminals to justice and that makes him a legend in the cities. An unexpected accidental death of his whole family forces him to retire as a lawman, and return to the city to take the reins of his house, which is undergoing financial troubles. In order to get his house of financial trouble, he starts to consider a mutually beneficial matrimonial alliance with another house.

But the past somehow catches up to him. The curtain is lifted from some criminal activities that are dramatically mysterious and circumstances brings him closer to one of the crimes. The lawman inside him prevails, and in order to solve the mystery of these crimes, he takes alliance with an old ally from the Roughs, Wayne, an allomancer, and a new one, Lady Marasi, a cousin of Wax’s to be betrothed. As they investigate the crime, Wax comes face to face with another lawmen from the Rough, Miles, whom he has worked in the past and who has gone rogue. Needless to say, the soup gets thicker.

Couple of familiar characters from the Mistborn universe makes their tiny appearances towards the end. I won’t tell you who they are, but keep a look out for them. It is almost nostalgic (I felt like going back to Mistborn series one more time).

Once again Sanderson weaves a story which is worth reading. In the traditional Sanderson-esque style, the details are aplenty and as the story progresses, readers get pulled in. The story reads like a fantasy and mystery set in steampunk era. There is allomancy and then there are guns, cranes, steam engines.

The Alloy of Law stands among my top 5 books of 2011, and from the author who is among my all time top 5 writers. The book does fall short – in words. The length of the book is not typical of Sanderson’ books; in fact it is almost a third of his standard books. This was something he wrote to get his mind “cleared” before going back to The Wheel of Time.

The story provides a satisfactory ending, a story set in post-The Well of Ascension, and a great introduction to the upcoming steampunk trilogy set in Mistborn universe. It does leave few strands untied.

If you are a fan of audiobooks, the book is read by Michael Kramer, who has read previous Mistborn series and the Wheel of time series. Michael does a great job and it feels natural continuation from original series. Personally, I like to listen to the book at 1.5 to 2 times the speed, because I find them a bit slower (Apple devices allow you to do that).

If you have not read Sanderson before, and are scared to pick one of his thick books, this is a great book to explore this author (be sure to read the appendix in the back to understand how the magic works in this universe).

In conclusion, I would say this is a great story, and a great book that now finds it sitting next to the other Sanderson books on my bookshelf. A must read, listen, or both for fans of Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Steampunk, and Mystery genres.

Click here to visit Brandon Sanderson’s The Alloy of Law portal.

Click here to visit Brandon Sanderson’s site.

Please comment, share, and let me know what you think. Thanks for reading.

Jatinder PS Nagi
December 26, 2011.

Enjoy Fuzziness …

Audible Frontiers did a shared universe stories called METAtropolis with John as one of the authors and the editor of the anthology. That was my first encounter with John’s writing and I enjoyed it. So when Powells Books announced John’s visit to their bookstore, I was there.

He was amazing, as I have already mentioned in this piece here.

John was on the tour of promoting his new book Fuzzy Nation, which is rebooting of H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy. I finally got to the book last night (I have a long reading list).

The story is retelling of the 1962 tale, so overall the story has classic Sci-Fi written all over it. Jack Holloway, a debarred lawyer, is a loner. He works as a contractor for an “evil” mining corporation that generally mine on planets across the galaxy, till the planet has nothing to offer. The mining company, by law, can only mine on the planets which do not have sentient life forms. Jack is on the verge of becoming very rich since he helped discover the largest mine of the rare gemstones on any planet. He has also discovered a new sort of “animals” on the planet (which Jack names Fuzzy). This poses a threat to the company who will not be allowed to mine, if proven that these beings are “people” (natives). Jack undergoes an ethical crisis.

The story take a legal turn and the battle between three parties – Jack who wants to get rich, the Biologist community who are excited about this new discovery (who are employed by the company) and want to study these new species, and the future CEO of the company, who wants to stall the legal battle and get the minerals out before anyone can sneeze & to prove to everyone that he is ready to take over the company.

And in this tussle, is suspended the fate of the Fuzzies, that no one has yet decided if they are “animals” or “people”.

A gripping story of legal drama, action, emotions, in an all updated Sci-Fi classic.
Fuzzy Nation is one of those books which I finished in a single sitting in a long time. I generally take my time, and finish the book in couple of days.
Fuzzy Nation was something that gripped me right from chapter 1 and 3.5 hours later, I was done. I could not put it down. The flow of the story maintains the pace, and subtle twists and turns keep the reader guessing.

Audible.com released the audio for the book read by Wil Wheaton, who does an amazing job. After finishing the book, I realized, there is no one else who could have read it better.
Audible book also includes the original H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy.

I never read H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy. And after reading Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi, which is a sort of rebooting the series, I think I should have (maybe I will listen to it on the audiobook).

A great book, I highly recommend this to anyone – Sci-Fi lover or not.

Check out John Scalzi’s Blog – Whatever.

JPS Nagi
July 2011

We’re more than animals …

Remember those classic Sci-Fi stories you used to read as a kid where robots are alive and they have turned evil.
Robopocalypse brought those memories back for me!

Daniel H. Wilson’s Robopocalypse is man-versus-machine tale – the story of how the robots turn against the humans. The author weaves a modern and plausible tale, which can happen in next 20-30 years, considering how many smart machines we have in our lives.

The robotic apocalypse is orchestrated by a single central super computer, Archos, who takes humanity by surprise all around the world. Archos takes control over the entire ensemble of machines in the world – smart phones, smart cars, bi-peds, domestic robots, telephones, satellites, machines – anything that has a computer or controller in it. And they start to work against human civilization and start evolving (the learning bots).

The entire novel is in flashback and told from points of views of several survivors from across the world. These survivors start to work on their own in Tokyo, Afghanistan, London, New York, and Oklahoma. As the story progresses, homo sapiens find ways to collaborate against the single enemy that they have created.

The story works at many different levels. Part 1 is grim as humans start to suffer, but engaging. As the story progresses, the action starts to come in. Then the survival instincts kick in, and finally collaboration. But more importantly, it is a tale of humanity and how pressure brings the best (mostly) and worst in people.

I enjoyed the book, because it brings back memories of the Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, the stories I grew up with and stories that fired my imagination as a kid.

This is also the first book I have read that is written in this style – each chapter is written in first person perspective of different characters. You can open any chapter in part 1 or part 2 of the book and read it. It is later, that all these threads start to come together. Many reviewers mention that this style has been used in few other books, but this was my first book in this style, and I enjoyed it a lot.

Daniel H. Wilson is a Robotics Engineer, a television host and a PhD. So many of the robots used in Robopocalypse are based on (or variant of) real world robots that exist today.

The audiobook is read by Mike Chamberlain who takes the book to whole another level. He changes accents based on the character being a Texan oil driller, a British telephone hacker, or a Native American from Okhlahoma among the few. A very well done audiobook. Available from Audible.com.

I enjoyed this book a lot, a fun to read, and to listen. I recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of science fiction or to anyone who enjoys reading.
It is available from all major resellers as a book or an eBook.

Lastly, you may want to read this book before Steven Spielberg’s movie based on Robopocalypse comes out in 2013.

Check out Daniel H. Wilson’s blog.

Here is Daniel H. Wilson’s interview on YouTube.

Copyright JPS Nagi
July1, 2011.

Magic is magic … Bramble is bramble …

In Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Alchemyst and Tobias Buckell’s The Executioness we meet characters from the world where bramble has taken over fertile farm lands and use of magic is punishable by death. Once a glorious and prosperous world, where magic was practiced freely; now has bramble everywhere. Bramble has strange affinity to magic; it roots itself where it senses magic has happened.
People are now poor and they live under fear of bramble whose needles are fatal to humans. The governance of the land executes anyone caught doing magic to make an example of.

Paolo Bacigalupi introduces us to Jeoz, in the book The Alchemyst. Jeoz has seen better days with magic, but now uses a small un-noticeable magic to cure his daughter’s cough in a hope that no one finds out. He is a scientist and finds a solution to solve the problem of bramble. It tells a story of ethics of science, a story of a father whose daughter is chronically ill, and an evil “creature”. Jonathan Davis voices the varied cast created by Bacigalupi.

Tobias Buckell opens up a story of Tana in The Executioness, set in the same world. It is a story of a mother, a daughter, and a wife, who stands up when her world is turned upside down. She stands up for survival and to bring her family back together. On the way, she meets raiders, traders in caravans, and a ruler who is a religious zealot preaching that salvation from a bramble infested world is possible only by following path he preaches. The woman and her axe becomes “The Executioness”. Katherine Kellgren brings an exotic acceted performance in this fantasy world.

To say the books are amazing, could be an understatement.
Audible Frontiers once again brings exclusive audio release of these two stories under the shared world experiment (similar to the METAtropolis series, where Tobias contributed too).
The world is dark and grim. Hope and life are fading fast. And bramble is taking over.

The real books are very difficult to come by. The audiobook is available as a set from Audible.com.
A good read, rather a good listen, for the lovers of sci-fi and fantasy genre.

Here are the covers for the two books:

Check out Paolo Bacigalupi’s site here.


Check out Tobias S. Buckell’s site
here.

Check details of the set at Audible.com.

JPS Nagi
June 27, 2011

Richard Bach & Me (and her)

What if space shifted and time bent and we could meet ourselves as we’ll be twenty years from now? What if we could talk face-to-face with the people we were in the past, with the people we are in the parallel lifetimes, in alternate worlds? What would we tell them, and what would we ask? How would we change if we knew what waits beyond space and time?


Heavy? Don’t worry, I’ll lighten everything up. The last time I wrote was when I fell in love … … with ‘a book’ … … and that too of philosophy of Plato. And my friend Mols, he wrote recently to me, saying so. My falling in and out of love is a story that stretches far back in time. I fell in love couple of times and (luckily) fallen out of it till I found Gitanjali.

Anyway, flashback. I recall one incident on the time-line during which my heart would skip a beat on seeing her. She was (and is) somewhat of a whizz-kid.

The settings this time are shifted to the beautiful and serene Chandigarh. And that’s here that I fell in love for the second time (yes, it was my second crush). The city is beautiful, the climate – just right and she was absolutely stunning. What else is required? … … Richard Bach? … …

Did I hear someone mention a name that sounded like some classical music composer of olden times whom my friend Misha would very often impress upon me to listen? And what the hell was this Richard Bach doing in my private and personal love story? Well, he was there. No way out of it and no denying of it. Richard Bach. The lines in the beginning of this piece are by him.

I was studying in the local engineering school and she was there too. my junior (I hope everybody has guessed her by now). I fell in love with her, not at the first sight or first bite (as my good friend Mols would put it). But this happened over time, with some encouragement from Mols and other. she was his classmate. Slowly and steadily, the poison of love entered my thought my heart and into my head. “What a girl!”

Lets skip some details of how I got to know her and all the stuff I did to make her notice me which she did, we’ll go directly to one incident of me with her. So flash-forward a little.

I was sitting with her at her place, and we started talking about books (Oh my God! Save me.). I became an avid reader after that encounter, but at that time I would say I was … not a great reader and was likely not very comfortable discussing about them books. But anything for her.

“Do you read?”, she asked. What a question. Of course I read. I did my schooling in a British Convent School, and yes ma’am I do read.

“Yeah.”

“What do you prefer in fiction?”, now wait a minute, what is fiction … … my mind was running its horses; fiction … fiction … yes – stories.

“I prefer pulp.” In my mind I silently thanked Quentin Tarantino for making Pulp Fiction. If many of you have not guessed, I’m a movie-buff too.

“Do you? What all authors have you read?”

“I don’t read much. I prefer music and movies. But sometimes I read. I’ll tell you about the first novel I read (apart from my school). That was Sidney Sheldon’s If Tomorrow Comes. One of our family friends suggested it.”

“So you like Sheldon in pulp?” Hmmm. OK, so Sheldon writes pulp … …

“Yeah.”

“Sonu, I’ve read many authors and many styles. Now I would like to read philosophy and some more meaningful writings. Have you heard of Richard Bach.”

That was the first time in my life I heard about Richard Bach. Who was this Bach. Misha would often come to my hostel and put Johanne Sebastian Bach’s compositions at very high volume … boring the hell out of all of us. But same man cannot be a philosophical or meaningful writer and a great composer at the same time (or could be, you never know). Richard must be someone else.

“Yeah.” I was trying to be ecstatic, “Richard Bach. O my God! You should have told me; rather we should have talked about him earlier. Do you know my father reads a lot and Richard Bach is one of his favorite authors? Do you know that he has all of his famous books? I think 5 or 6 of them. But personally I would have skipped though 1 or 2, but his writing do not impress me much. Actually, I am more practical, so I prefer staying away from all that needs brains.” I was trying everything to win her.

Now that I have made an easy way out of all the discussions that I could have gotten myself into, I’ll tell you about my father. Well he reads a lot … he reads jokes, newspapers and his immense collection of advanced calculus books. If you would ask him, he would say who is Richard Bach. He is all logic and no philosophy. He doesn’t even know if a man with such a name ever existed.

“O really? Do you have all the Bach? Well that’s wonderful. Have you read Jonathon Livingstone Seagull? Oh, I have read it long time back. It’s beautiful!”

Jonathon Livingstone Seagull? Now what is this? Must be some seagull.

“Oh yeah, it’s different. Unlike many stories we read in our day to day lives.” This is the most appropriate answer. For those articulate people who are very good in discussion, I think they would understand that at this point I must give discussion a new turn.

“Yes Sonu, this small book really makes a difference in one’s life. After reading the book, one thing has become pretty clear in my mind, we are not here for mere earning our bread and butter. Life is all about exploring new heights, think about them till you reel under the pressure, dream about them and nurture them.”

God help me.

“I read it long time back. So I never perceived it like that. Would you like to read it? I can get it to you.” Let’s get out of this seagull business, I was thinking myself.
“I can get you the book. I have it in Amritsar.”

“Can you?” there was twinkle in the eye and a beautiful smile on the face. I could have done anything at that time.

“Sure. But its in Amritsar. Rather, I’ll get all his books, next time I’ll go to Amritsar. You can read them all.”

“Oh thank you, Sonu. That’s so nice of you”. Oh yes, I am nice.

And henceforth this man … … what’s his name – Richard Bach came to my life.

Well I stayed for some time and had some pakoras (fried fritters) with her while I was being given this dhobi patkaa about Richard Bach. Before taking leave, I promised her that next time I’ll go to Amritsar, I’ll get all of Bachs.

It was 4’o clock in the afternoon when I left her place and it was Thursday. On my way back, I stopped in Sector 17 at Capital Book Depot. My friend Ajay’s dad is the owner of that shop (he became my friend after this Bach). I went to him and asked for Bach … Richard Bach. He looked at me from head to toe (“Don’t I look like one of those Richard Bach guys?”).

He showed me to the shelf and I could see was a rack in front of me with all the Bach. He suggested Kahlil Gibran, if I was about to start with this kind of writings but I told him that I’d buy only Bach. He went away and I counted that six of the titles of this author were lying there. I brought all the six of them on the counter and asked Ajay for the price of all. He said they’d all cost me around Rs 800. And I had none in my pocket. I told him that I have no money with me but I would like to buy all of these tomorrow and he can keep a set aside for me. He said that would be no problem at all and that I can come anytime to buy them.

Now to arrange 800 Rupees. In the evening, my parents called (they used to call me everyday, even today they call me almost everyday) and I told them that I was out of money and needed to pay some hostel dues and I also need to buy few books. My father never questioned me about money. He said that I can collect the money from the driver of a local bus service (Maharaja Travels) that runs between Amritsar and Chandigarh. Wonderful. The very next day around half past 10, I got the money. Two thousand rupees.

Hit Capital Book Depot. Ajay recognized me, I think it was easy for him since I was wearing the same clothes that I was wearing the day before. He was surprised that I have come back for Bach. Many people do not turn out after they have asked the bookseller to keep some books aside for them. I bought the books, made the payments. That’s when Ajay and me came to know each other. I have bought many books after that from him.

Over the weekend, I read Jonathan Livingston Seagull, One, There’s No Such Place As Far Away. So now I knew who is Richard Bach. Then I started with Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah and then later after 3 days I started with Biplane. Well I was through with five of his books. And then the one that remained was The Bridge Across Forever: A Love Story. On Friday Misha came. Misha’s eyes twinkled at the sight of these books. He saw all the books lying scattered in my room. His expression was of a clown who gets struck by a baseball (or cricket) bat and passes out with the smug happy expression on his face.

“Sardarji, theek thaak ho (surdy, are you alright)?” was his instant question. After much dodging around, I ended up telling him the truth. Now it was easy to talk to him. Needless to say, Misha had read almost all the books. We had a nice discussion.

“After reading the book, one thing has become pretty clear in my mind. we are not here for mere earning our bread and butter. Life is all about exploring new heights, think about them till you reel under the pressure, dream about them and nurture them.” I repeated what she had said to me.

Misha had his own ideas, “ It also tells us that to follow freely the promptings of heart, one must not conceal from oneself that life is coarse and ruthless in its own wayward course. The book is a bid to rekindle the sleeping Jonathan Livingston Seagull in all of us. Through the seagull, the author explains this to us and takes us to the finer nuances of life. What does a man need? We always think of common things – bread, butter and a bed to sleep on. After reading the book, you will see that there is more to life than those. You don’t have to simply live for them. How about bringing a pose of roses for your beloved from the stiff cliffs of Alpine, when roses are out of season. This book will teach and prompt you to do that.”

I was impressed. Misha, the great. Now I can talk about this author.

“This book packs into a few short pages a plethora of universal truths. It is a simply written tale of the nature of purpose and of perfection. It’s a story of freedom and thought and immortality that ought to inspire even the most stubborn pessimists and nay-sayers.”, I added as now I understood it better.

Misha made himself comfortable in my room (as he always used to do). Many ideas were exchanged over lunch and over evening tea. Misha wore the same smug expression and was also enjoying every moment of it.

He started another thread of discussion, “There’s No Such Place as Far Away, now that is an amazing piece. When she was about to turn five, a little girl named Rae Hansen invited Richard Bach to her birthday party. Though deserts, storms, mountains, and a thousand miles separated them, Rae was confident that her friend would appear. There’s No Such Place As Far Away chronicles the exhilarating spiritual journey that delivered Rae’s anxiously awaited guest to her side on that special day – and tells of the powerful and enduring gift that would keep him forever close to her heart. Richard Bach’s inspiring, now – classic tale is a profound reminder that miles cannot truly separate us from friends … that those we love are always with us – every moment of the infinite celebration we call life.”

I was getting ideas too. as I said, “This is one of those rare books that has a timeless message and a simple beauty which belie its brevity. You can read this book in ten minutes. And, you can re-read it a hundred times and feel differently about it each time. Consider it the abridged Jonathon Livingston Seagull or Illusions, but don’t think of it as leaving out anything of importance. I particularly like this book because, in a few minutes, it helps me remember some of the simple truths of life – that time and space cannot separate us from the one’s we love. Besides that, it has some fantastic water-color illustrations which I found enjoyable to simply view.”

“Yes, exactly. Very true, very true”, Misha said sipping his tea.

I wanted to explore more. “And Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. In the cloud-washed airspace between the cornfields of Illinois and blue infinity, a man puts his faith in the propeller of his biplane. For disillusioned writer and itinerant barnstormer Richard Bach, belief is as real as a full tank of gas and sparks firing in the cylinders…until he meets Donald Shimoda–former mechanic and self-described messiah who can make wrenches fly and Richard’s imagination soar…. In Illusions, the unforgettable follow-up to his Richard Bach takes to the air to discover the ageless truths that give our souls wings: that people don’t need airplanes to soar…that even the darkest clouds have meaning once we lift ourselves above them… and that messiahs can be found in the unlikeliest places–like hay fields, one-traffic-light midwestern towns, and most of all, deep within ourselves.”

Misha had something to say too. “The best part is the thought-provoking dialogue between a guy named Richard and a real Messiah. This story will change you if it ever get into your head.”

Misha left for home later in the evening. That night, I finished Biplane. It was first time in my life I felt there is more than Sidney Sheldon to life. There is Richard Bach. Oh what a writer. I was doing it all because of her. Did you guys think I forgot her, talking about Misha and Richard Bach? Of course not.
And all these days, I must tell you, I was meeting her everyday and we talked and chatted a bit – but not Richard Bach.

During the next weekend I finished with The Bridge Across Forever: A Love Story. Bach wrote of a man haunted by the ghost of a wise, mystical, lovely lady who lived just around the corner in time. This story tells of his quest to find her. His search for his dreamed-of soulmate, his detour into wealth and success, and his ultimate meeting with the woman with whom he has found love and enchantment. If you’ve ever felt alone in a world of strangers, missing someone you’ve never met, you’ll find a message from your love in this book. Isn’t it amazing how our life is so in our faces yet we are too blind to see? This reconnects to the hummings from my inner self and not the moaning of the outside world. When we are finally at one, awake, and aware who knows maybe we can all have it. We get the answers all the time but we push them away for whatever reason. An inspiration to love beyond this life.

Well, I had read it all and was ready to talk to anyone about this author. All this to get the attention of that someone special. Over the next weekend, I went to Amritsar to meet my parents. Spent some time with them. Met couple of friends. Missed her. Traveled back to Chandigarh.

On Monday, I met her. After daily greetings, I told her that I had brought the books she wanted. She was happy to know that and seeing her happy, I was happy too. That evening I took the books to her place and gave it to her. And even suggested the one’s she should read first and the one’s that are to be savored last.

She read them in about 10-12 days time. I had continued to meet her wherever I could and even discussed the books individully with her (thanks to Misha). She was happy to know that I had read them all. She was impressed by my versions and understanding of these writings (I think). Afterwards, she suggested many more books to me and many more she demanded (the one’s she wanted to read and Ajay happily supplied me with them (of course not free).

And that how I came to know about Richard Bach. As I write this, I see that set of books in front of me. As I look back, sometimes I think I was making a fool of myself, and at other times, I think that she has to be thanked at some point for making me a more ferocious reader. I have read hundreds of books since, needless to say even more heavier than Richard Bach. But these books have a special place in the time line of my life. It was fate, destiny or her, but in the end, she did make a difference in my life, and my reading.

Wherever she is in the world, I hope she is reading some new book, or maybe she is reading the ‘life’ itself.

February 2008
Copyright JPS Nagi

Epilogue (August 2010): Although my original Richard Bach books are scattered everywhere, my new set of Richard Bach still sits on my bookshelf, as seen in one of the images above.