PLOT: 3.5/5 CHARACTERS: 3.5/5 WRITING STYLE: 3/5 CLIMAX: 3/5 ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 3/5
It is the job of the species to survive and to fight extinction, but are we ready for the great upheaval? Or will we, like the others before us, eat each other up? The fight for survival is on and only those who surrender to the will of God will survive and prosper. After all, the number of all surrenders is the number Nineteen.”Tikku, Anuj. Nineteen 十九: A Pandemic’s Tale
The year 2020 has not been an easy one. It brought along with it the deadly pandemic of the Coronavirus which has taken thousands of lives across the world. The lockdown has rendered thousands of people jobless and many millions of them bored at home.
It was during such time of inactivity that the author Anuj Tikku decided to make the most of his creative talents and add another book to his portfolio of works. The author’s latest fiction, “Nineteen 十九: A Pandemic’s Tale” revolves around the deadly virus, and the pandemic it has caused the world over.
The book is a short read that takes us into the heart of the city of Mumbai. It paints a very realistic picture of how the virus has impacted the lives of millions of Mumbaikars. Not just that, the book also takes a look at the current divisions that exist in Indian society. It shows us how we stand to benefit greatly from getting rid of our differences and standing together in such challenging times.
The book narrates the story of a power couple Yamini and Sanjeev who have left the comforts of a foreign country, and given up on the promise of an ‘American dream’ to pursue their ‘desi dream’. Educated in Ivy-league universities, they both have set up their dream company called “Bio Fizz Technologies” which plans to make a name for itself in the emerging Indian biotech space.
With the magic of sheer hard work and their strong networking skills, they manage to acquire the needed funds and attract some affluent venture capital investors. But just as they are beginning their journey, the COVID-19 Pandemic begins, and devasting news starts pouring in from China and other parts of the world. While it looks like a disaster at the outset, there is a golden opportunity that lays within its deadly fold.
Taking note of this, Sanjeev decides to make the most of the situation and initiates a quest for the vaccine, a cure that will help save thousands of lives across the globe and will help the world get back on its feet. Will he succeed or will he fail? What role will Yamini have to play in this journey?
The main characters are many, and they all have an interesting role to play in the story and in taking the narrative forward. In Sanjeev, we see a man determined to make a name for himself and his country. We see Sanjeev battling his emotional insecurities and fear of failure as he sets across on this mind-boggling quest.
Yamini is a go-getter. She is shrewd and sharp and knows exactly what has to be done. She also has a knack for remaining in the public eye, and that helps Bio Fizz Technologies always stay in limelight.
There are other characters too, the most important amongst whom are the mystical monk from Sri Lanka, Danpani, and the reporter with an emotional baggage, Zubeda. Danpani is a wise and kind monk who enjoys a huge following on the social media platform, YouTube. His videos talk about spirituality, kindness, service to humanity, and living in peace with nature.
Zubeda is a reporter whose memories continue to haunt her and taint her present life. An ethical reporter, with an uncanny knack of always finding a unique angle, she has a good heart and a strong personality.
I like how the characters in the book don’t overwhelm the narrative, but rather help in moving the story forward at a steady pace. They have interesting backstories and personas that are both believable and relatable.
Anuj’s language is flowy, and he makes use of simple expressions to keep things straightforward. His English can be easily picked up by beginners, as the focus of his narrative is more on story than on the language. While the book doesn’t have a lot of twists and turns to keep the reader hooked throughout, it does make for a decent read in the end.
The cover and the blurb are exciting enough to get the reader’s curiosity up and running from the very beginning. There is a high promise of thrill, adventure, and mystery that the blurb suggests.
“Nineteen 十九: A Pandemic’s Tale” is probably the first Indian fiction to be written on the COVID-19 pandemic, and I would love to see it being made into a movie. The visualizations of Mumbai under lockdown and the characters of Danpani and Zubeda would make for some interesting visual content.
While there is a lot of potential in the story, there are areas that need more focus and attention. The case in point is the romantic chemistry between Yamini and Sanjeev. The two are a couple, however, they hardly behave like one. Whether it is in public or private, their conversations and behavior are always too static, too formal.
What I also found lacking was a strong plot twist and an edge-of-the-seat kind of pull. There is a twist in the story, but the character and the whole setup itself are quite amateurish. Having grown up on a steady dose of thrillers and mysteries, the reader in me kept wanting for more.
The climax is mediocre too and gives a simple end to the story. At the end of it, there was a lot of potential that went unexplored, so many sub-plots that went unnoticed, and a blockbuster conclusion that went unscripted.
That being said, “Nineteen 十九: A Pandemic’s Tale” is a short and breezy read that proves to be worthy of the time spent in reading it. I would like to congratulate the author on this novel endeavor. Just the thought of penning a book on such a relevant and current topic takes courage and a great deal of effort.
I conclude this review with the hope that one day when all of this is over, the reader in me would be happily sitting in front of a screen and devouring popcorns while watching the story of Yamini, Sanjeev, Zubeda, Danpani and most importantly Bio Fizz technologies coming to life.
Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of Nineteen 十九: A Pandemic’s Tale using the link below.