My Rating ****
‘AN.AL.-The Origins’ is a fantastic debut novel of Athul DeMarco. The book starts with a brilliantly written chapter which sets a perfect stage for the events that are going to follow. You cannot leave the book till the end once you started reading it. I must acknowledge my veneration for the author for coming out of the tired and tested (clichéd) formulae of the recent times. While the author is an Indian, the plot of the novel has been set outside India. This can be lauded as setting such a plot can be really challenging. However, the most adorable thing of this novel is the vivid imagination and masterful text.
This is the story of conjoined twins (so called ‘two headed man’) and their penchant for solving mystery and an eye for detail. This is also the story of Anita, the girl with a switchblade (a twisted killer on the run). And, this is a story of ‘cat and mouse’ game between Anita and conjoined twins. While I will not reveal the storyline as I would like others to read the book by themselves, there is no harm in saying that the story is fast paced action thriller coupled with entertaining dialogues and violent action. However, the book may not be liked by some readers as they might find the story as morbid, violent, gory and scary. Nonetheless, I would recommend that you buy the book.
Let’s turn our attention towards the different characters depicted in the book. The author sketches almost all of the characters with as much sureness of touch as he can depict to perfection. The conjoined twins (Alfie and Andy) differ from each other as chalk differs from cheese. While Andy devours books and took a deep fascination towards the working of the human mind and body, Alfie loves physical and mental challenges. While Andy prefers taking the road-often taken, Alfie fancies himself as an adventurous explorer. Still, together they are the soul of this book and there is no denying of the fact that this book is their story. Their contrasting characters provide a certain charm to the storyline. They are preposterous, charismatic and smartass. They always bicker with each other but that is what they really are. While a deeper look into the characters of Andy and Alfie reveals their similarity with Sherlock Holmes and Watson, one is struck by the ingenuity of craftsmanship in projecting the rise of these characters in different chapters.
Anita, on the other hand, is withdrawn from the societal norms, and isolates herself into a world of her own. Her character presents with deep compassion the psychological torture undergone by a young girl as she comes to realise her true position in the world as merely a lust-satisfying machine for over-sexed people. It seems that author has deliberately kept her character a bit obscure or inexplicit. Then there are characters of Peter and Rita which are not only convincing but also believable. Similarly the other characters, the Superintendent Roth, the deputy Eugene, Dominic (the owner of McManus Pub) and the shy Mr. Robbins (the landlord) have also been written well.
This work of Athul exhibits an astonishing variety of theme and setting, mood and tone, and character and personality. As for the narrative style, Athul is a born story-teller, endowed with an unerring sense of situation and with the ability to visualise a scene clearly. The reader will be struck by the sharp sensory observation upon which the narrative is based. The reader sees the transformation of narrative into events happening right before his/her eyes. The dialogues are not only written beautifully, but also take the readers directly to the significant points of action of the incidents depicted in the book. The effect of these and of the extreme clarity of language (a brilliant command over language) brings home to the psychology of the characters in this novel. The plot is airtight and one cannot find any logical flaws even if one tries.
In the end, I would just like to say that this book is an enthralling read and do hope that the author will come up with a sequel soon.
(Disclosure: I won a free paperback copy of this book through a Goodreads first read giveaway contest)
Blurb of the Book (From Goodreads)
There are legends, myths, fables, and parables. And the tale of the man with two heads is one of them.
When the invitation to play is a dead, mutilated stray dog stuffed inside a gunnysack, you know that the game is going to be dangerous and that the only way to stop the madness is to understand it. And to hope that when the time comes, the knife finds a sweet spot. This is where it all began . . . this is the story of the man with two heads.