Nark-Astra , The Hell Weapon
This story is a mix of ancient-day-mythology and modern-day-technology. Lone warrior Prayaschakit is avenging the murder of his family by King Dushtminhas. While the outdated King fights with his huge army of soldiers, horses and elephants, Prayaschakit stands alone with modern ways of ammunition installed in his bows and arrows. He gained the knowledge of latest warfare from his teacher Trikalacharya, who is also a scientist and technology enthusiast. While the story is an interesting mix of contrasts, as a reader it left me with lot of doubts.
For example: Nark-Astra, the weapon – Who would make the interface for invoking such a powerful weapon a difficult, non-user friendly sound based invocation? Prayaschakit himself frets over the task of reciting every word and syllable correctly. I understand that invocation of weapon through a mantra is more similar to the mythological age. But if the whole idea of making the voice invocation difficult was to make sure that weapon is not misused by wrong hands, isn’t a biometric check – a retina or heartbeat scan more apt? On a childish note, what if Prayaschakit was having cold or sore throat on that battle day?
Also if he was only avenging death of his family by the King, couldn’t he do a surgical attack on the king alone? That way he could have avoided killing thousands of soldiers or attempting to kill the entire world, being the fair and self righteous man he is.
While the warrior uses modern warfare, the King is stuck with soldiers, golden telescope, Saptamrit potions, gladiatorial pits and slave girls. I believe strong heroes need strong villains also, which I felt was lacking in Dushtminhas.
Apart from these doubts, I found the story satisfying. Good use of biological warfare and situation of epidemic infection. Dushtminhas stood as a representative of current political leaders who leads the nation according to their own personal egos. While Prayaschakit felt no different, putting his personal vengeance above mankind and justice; Trikalacharya behaved like a true hero, a scientist, at the same time a wise and responsible human. He doesn’t forget to make allowances for humanity even while creating deadly weapons intended to save earth which can be misused.
Death by crowd
It’s a story with many dark elements in it. Darknet is a cyberspace where people pay using digital currency Puntzifier to watch horrible acts of violence in internet and take part in it anonymously for entertainment. Apart from the elements of horror due to physical violence in this story, author successfully uses artificial intelligence to create a sense of fear regarding the nature of Darknet’s owner and intentions. This story made me ponder on the question: “who are we when we are anonymous? “
A modern day take on the story of Alauddin and his magical lamp; twists and fun lies in the Genie being a bit different from what Marco or us imagined a genie to be. Genie inhabits a parallel universe and works on earth like a customer service operator who unabashadely asks us to rate the user experience after her services. A fun read.
Best story of the lot. I loved the concept of time crawlers and time-readers. Also loved how the story ended. Creepiest with elements of mysticism explained through time slices, loved it.
Good use of concept of 4D, Fordans and knowers. One of the Fordan questions the narrator on his own existence and places seeds of doubt in his thoughts. There is an interesting take on how mankind started on earth. There is a philosophical side to this story when Fordan explain how they feed on the emotions of humans and how humans can never escape emotions. Also enjoyed how the story ended in a note of indecision, like the eternal dilemmas we face in our everyday lives. Like how Shakespeare asks – to be or not to be?
Earth needs to be rescued from an energy drawing spaceship that landed 12,000 years ago but now seems to have come out of its hibernation. While Kaaljeevi from outer space comes to the rescue, she lays down a condition that the world leaders have to follow. This was only an average read for me.
Overall, I found the book really interesting. I would recommend it to readers who like science fiction. My rating is 4 out of 5 stars.
The narrations do contain verbose, technical details and are mostly in dialogues or conversations. These are two areas I personally enjoy. Nonetheless, I hope that the author’s future books will explore new and different methods of narration also.
Another qualm I had with the stories is unlike what the title of the book suggests, none of the stories are exactly happening on parallel universes. All the stories occur on earth where humans are either attacked by aliens or have knowledge about the parallel universes. The characters in the stories do include universe-trotters, other-solar-system-seekers, aliens etc. But I was hoping to read stories that actually happen on other planets, with fine detailing about the outer world, people and their lives.
Author has good knowledge about the technologies. His technical details are spot on. But his real power lies in bringing a bit of mysticism, realism and creepiness to even technical themes like artificial intelligence and cyberspace.