PLOT: 3.5/5 CHARACTERS: 3/5 WRITING: 2.5/5 CLIMAX: 2.5/5 ENTERTAINMENT: 2.5/5
The villagers were talking, you know. They say they have seen the roof of some huge building jutting out of the excavation site. People say there could be some unlocked spirits that might be let loose because of your excavation work.”– Anuj Tikku, Putli: Wanna Play
After a long time, I came across an Indian horror fiction. The last few that I remember reading were Nag Mani’s The Green Room, K. Hari Kumar’s That Frequent Visitor, and Siddharth Nirwan’s Dead Never Die. So, it was with great enthusiasm and also an anticipation of spook-filled dread that I picked up Anuj Tikku’s latest book, Putli: Wanna Play.
Read on to know more about the book and about my experience of reading it.
What to expect?
Expect a short read that can be technically termed a novella. Expect a book that combines elements of different genres – horror, adventure, historical fiction, and thriller. Expect a book that tells us an ominous story of an evil doll. Finally, expect a book that is best suited for beginners.
At the very first glance, the book seems to give an ominous vibe. The eerie picture of the doll replete with a spooky tagline that asks ‘kya mere saath kheloge?’ is enough to send chills down the spine of any potential reader. The blurb tells us a little more about the story, suggesting that Putli: Wanna Play isn’t just a horror story, but it also has elements of an adventure thriller and historical fiction.
And I have to say this here – the first impression is pretty great!
Who can read?
The book is written in a language that can be easily understood by a beginner-level reader. Further, the use of vernacular Hindi and everyday English would make it especially suitable to the tastes and requirements of beginners in English reading.
The story as it goes
Sushant Gupta is a reclusive man who lives in the middle of nowhere, in a house, on a deserted hill, overlooking a pristine blue lake. Sushant is an archeologist and a nature lover. He is currently working on an intriguing and controversial project that can shake the foundations of the belief system of billions of people. He believes that Jesus spent his last days in India and is buried in the nearby hills in an unknown grave. On his part, Sushant wants to dig deeper into the mystery and find the church that houses Jesus’s remains.
Through persistent efforts and unwavering dedication, he finds the church, but at the same location, he also finds an ominous-looking doll that goes by the name Putli; a name which is inscribed at the back of its dress. Very soon, the locals start experiencing weird and sinister encounters that hint at a darker power at play.
But thousands of miles away, in the seat of the Catholic faith, a kind man, Reverend Jim Jones, has been preparing for a long trip to a faraway place. The Reverend is a faith healer, and after being touched by the grace of God, he has physically healed many souls.
Little does he know that the very place he is going will prove to be a place of Satan himself. A dark and sinister power is biding for its time, patiently waiting to unravel its menacing energies on unsuspecting victims.
What will happen to revered Jones?
Who is Putli, and what does she want?
Will Sushant ever uncover the alleged tomb of Jesus?
Let’s talk about writing style
The pace builds up quickly, with the author introducing us to a gloomy landscape, that creates a captivating image in the minds of the reader. The setting of the book, and the landscape introduced in the first chapter, automatically creates a sense of dread. It talks of a place far away from civilization as we know; a place where nature thrives and dominates, and men try to survive the harsh elements.
The mention of St. Mary’s Basilica, and the potential for discovering the mortal remains of Jesus, lends it an intriguing historical adventure thriller angle (one that immediately reminds the reader of Dan Brown and his works). I also got a few vibes of Ashwin Sanghi’s The Rozabal Line. This historical fiction angle lends it another layer of mystery, which promises to keep the reader guessing.
Some aspects of the mystery are boldly asserted, and may I say, that it takes a lot of courage to pen something like this. The author knows how to create suspense and even a little controversy and uses his creative liberties to their full advantage.
How good are the characters?
Sushant Gupta, the main protagonist, is an archeologist. He is a man who shows a lot of promise and delivers it to a large extent. Reverend Jim Jones is another character who has a major role to play but fails to impress the reader. Other characters are merely ornamental and mostly forgettable.
What did I not like?
Editing is one aspect where the book fares rather poorly. There are just so many editing errors that the entire experience of reading such a gripping story takes a deep plunge. I wish the author hires a better editor for his next read, for there are far too many grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors in this one.
What did I like?
Like most other books by the author, Putli: Wanna Play also has a generous dose of captivating pictures that enrapture the reader. The eerie and spooky images complement the text and lend an additional aura of mystery and intrigue to the story. They magnify the ominous vibe of the book, urging the readers to turn pages after pages.
What could have been better?
With a plot as gripping as this one, the story needs more time to build up to its full potential. The book, and the suspense along with it, ends too soon. And that remains my biggest qualm with the book.
What about the climax?
The climax is where the book loses brownie points. With a plot like that, the possibilities were immense, but the end does a hasty job of bringing the story to an early and half-baked conclusion. At the end of it, many loopholes remain unplugged, and many questions remain unanswered.
Is the book entertaining?
The book turns out to be an okay read. The premise though exciting, intriguing, and full of possibilities, is let down by the writing. The premise of the book had so much potential that wasn’t explored to its full capacity. In the end, Putli: Wanna Play is a one-time read that narrates an intriguing story in a spooky and sinister manner.
Pick the book if
- You enjoy reading novellas.
- The idea of a horror cum historical adventure thriller appeals to you.
- You are looking for a mild horror story.
Skip the book if
- You can’t stand editing mistakes.
- You are a voracious or a regular reader.
Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of Putli: Wanna Play using the link below.