Sunday, March 20, 2016

Chronicler of the Undead by Mainak Dhar

Chronicler of the Undead
Mainak Dhar
172 pages, speculative, zombie

Thanks to Westland Ltd. for providing a review copy of this book. 

When the zombie apocalypse happens, an Indian army veteran with one leg and broken dreams of becoming a writer finds himself stuck in a bungalow in the mountains above Gangtok, Sikkim. Luckily, this is a relatively safe location – but who knows how long it will last, or if anyone else has survived. Or what exactly happened.

He starts to keep a journal to distract him from his current circumstances, and continues to write in it as he meets with other survivors and eventually finds himself becoming the leader of the group. Can he help the others survive?

Zombie story with a twist

This is a fairly standard zombie story, with survivors attempting to live in the chaos after the end of the world. But there are a couple differences that make this one stand out, at least a little bit, from other novels in this genre.

First, there is the location: Gangtok, Sikkim. I’ve been there; it’s a gorgeous city among steep hills, very near the Chinese-Indian border. If you know anything about the history of relations between China and India, you know what that means: a history of war, disputed borders, and major political problems. In many ways, the unique location of this book (geographic, political, and cultural) provides a good deal of the plot.

Second, our protagonist is not only an ex-soldier; he is an ex-soldier with only one leg who has to hold his own in intense fighting. He does it, but he has constant trouble with his prosthetic leg. Probably my favorite part of this book was the way he reacted to this disability: it causes problems, but in the end he is no less capable than he would be with two legs.

The narrator himself is very relatable in his flaws, and the novel is written in a casual tone that conveys the pain and inadequacy that he feels. Even better is how he takes everything in stride, with a bit of humor when called for, making the book a fun read.

If you like zombie books, I think you would like this one – it’s not the best book ever, but it’s a decent read if you want something pulpy to pass the time.

Further Reading: 

Read my review of The King's Harvest by Chetan Raj Shreshta, also set in Sikkim

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