Neville Sarony has masterfully woven a riveting tale of adventure, betrayal, and conspiracies. It is well written, with his diction as good as that of Dickens. From the very first page, the reader is glued to the book, and how the ending is delivered is not disappointing at all. Those of us who are used to reading American or British fiction will find this book refreshing, as it is inundated with references to local culture. I almost jumped with excitement when Max Devlin, the lead character, orders masala tea, which happens to be my favorite. I sighed with gratitude, “Finally a story about us!” There is no doubt the author is intimately familiar with the South Asian mindset and way of life, which is all the more impressive.
This book brings forth the issue of Gorkhaland rebels in India and raises the question of Tibetan independence. It delves into the myriad complexities surrounding these problems. However, Sarony cleverly avoids limiting his book to mere descriptions of the adversities of the marginalized people, but uses these political developments to effortlessly support his plot with flawless logic. There lies his brilliance. Every now and then he delivers deep and thought-provoking punch lines like, “Half the world’s mistakes are because politicians lack a sense of history”. He enlightens us about, and at the same time mocks, the imperialist attitudes of the two giants, India and China, towards smaller nations around them. In portraying the Chinese authorities as the antagonists, his resentment against them regarding the numerous atrocities inflicted upon the Tibetans is quite apparent.
Religion implicitly becomes a major theme of the book. An interesting aspect of this book is how it exposes the infightings within the Tibetan sects. When we think of Buddhism, peace and abandonment of worldly desires come to our minds. But, this book evinces that some Buddhist establishments are also competing for power. He sheds light on the hypocrisies of institutionalized religions. Yet another important question he asks is how religious philosophy and use of violence can ever be reconciled. These are the ironies and contradictions that are to be solved by the present day religious leaders.
Sarony gives us a James Bond of South Asia embarking on his secret mission. He is a man of principles, bringing balance to Dharma in our land, almost like Lord Rama. However, it is a little disconcerting to have a Caucasian man as the savior of South Asia. Couldn’t the Asian people fend for themselves? Do we always need a white man to fight for our justice? However, I discern no ill intention, as his love for Nepal drips from every page. Nowhere is he condescending. In certain instances, the author seems to have used the same old formula of guns, villains, and women. Going through this book was like watching an action-packed movie with a macho hero and loyal sidekicks. This made it somewhat predictable.
Overall, this book will go down as an unforgettable addition to the literary landscape pertaining to Nepal. It lends new meaning to fiction of Nepal. I would highly recommend this book to both Nepali and foreign readers alike. It has earned a permanent place in the bookshelf of my favorites. It is a must-read.