The best thing about the BYOB Party is that you discover new writers. “What better way to escape from reality than by reading sci-fi and fantasy?” Sudharsan said as he kicked off the discussion talking about Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K. J. Parker (incidentally that is a pseudonym. The author’s real name is Tom Holt, a secret he managed to keep for 17 years), a cult fantasy author. What makes Parker’s books so unique is that he goes into the period in question with mind-boggling precision and he avoids magic (he does use magic in his short stories though), the usual staple of fantasy writing. You only have to read his account on sieges to glean the depth of his research. Some of the prominent themes in his works are the use and misuse of power and technology.
In this book, a siege is approaching and the city is ill-prepared. Sieges were a way of life in the Middle Ages and civilization was built in the making of fortresses and the breaking of them. It is up to dishonest Orhan to save his people from slaughter. “I really enjoyed this work,” Sudharsan said. “It is just so different from conventional fantasy reads.”
You can listen to the author speak about his writing journey here.
Another book that Sudharsan picked up was totally unrelated to fantasy —Billion Dollar Whale by Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, Tom Wright and Bradley Hope. This book hailed as the story of a modern Gatsby was a huge success. It was named Best Book of 2018 by the Financial Times and Fortune. The book chronicles the 1MDB scam with its roots in Malaysia, spreading out its tentacles to turn into a white-collar crime on a global scale.
,Jho Low, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, took the help of Goldman Sachs and others to siphon money out of an investment fund. Low was a flamboyant character and didn’t hide the money he made- he threw humongous parties and financed Hollywood movies like The Wolf of Wall Street. In spite of facing criminal charges, Jho Low remains a fugitive. If you are a fan of the biggest heist story of this century, you may want to read this book.
“It’s interesting to read about how power and money work,” Sudharsan said. Watch the writer dissect this plot here.
The question came up whether the book was banned. Not in India anyway though India does have a tradition of banning specific books. Take The Polyester Prince: The Rise of Dhirubhai Ambani by Hamish McDonald, The Descent of Air India by Jitender Bhargava and Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. More banned books mentioned here.
More books in Part 2.