“With great power, comes great responsibility” – somehow this line has made a permanent home in my conscience. This line from Spiderman keeps cropping up at various times. Anytime I’m reading a book or some story where a common man like you and me is thrown into an extraordinary situation, I keep imagining how would that person react? Not all people are born heroes, most would shirk away from the responsibility, and the ones who do not make for good heroes in books and movies. C. Y. Gopinath’s hero in The Book of Answers is surprisingly of the first kind, and I’ve to say makes for a most intriguing hero.
As soon as I had read the blurb of this book, my interest had been piqued. “The Book of Answers” is the story of Patros Patranobis. He inherits a book that supposedly has the answers to all the problems plaguing the world. Not wanting to add more problems to his already problematic life Patros disposes of the book but is shocked to see it again on National Television under the control of India’s most powerful (and corrupt) political leader. The rest of the story follows Patros and his (mis)adventures as he tries to grapple with unwanted heroism thrust on him, and the repercussions of him becoming the forced leader of a political movement.
The story is gripping and you keep turning the pages to know what happened next. There are rarely any places where the pace of the story slackens and that is saying something for a 350+ pages long book. The flow of the book was mostly linear, and there was no problem following the story anywhere. I especially loved the names of the characters. The protagonist is Patros Patranobis, his son is Tipperary (Tippy), the ‘ruler’ of the country is aptly named Ishwar Prasad, and once you hear the name Shinde – you know it is going to be a cop. Apart from the names, almost all the characters have been given quite a bit of personality. All the major characters have an interesting back-story which helps in understanding nuances of that person’s characterization.
What I did not enjoy about the book was the usage of a few words which would not have been amiss in an advanced English vocabulary class. I would say my knowledge of English is not bad as I’ve been a voracious reader since I don’t remember when, and even then at many times I had to interrupt my read to find the meaning of the word. Mostly I can figure out what a word means from the context, but while reading this book there were times when I had to resort to a dictionary to find the meaning. Thankfully I had been reading this book on my Kindle and thus I had quick access to a dictionary and that saved me a lot of hassles. Apart from this trivial complaint there are hardly any negative points about the book.
Addendum: This is an author requested review. I was contacted by the author to review his book.