PLOT: 3.5/5

“Great motorcyclists never die, they just find another place to ride.”
– Murali K Menon, The God Who Loved Motorbikes

My musings

Every once in awhile, you come across certain books that have the power to surprise you or rather shock you. They start on one note and then completely change the tangent taking us to forbidden but exciting adventures. Believe me or not, Durjoy Datta’s latest book Wish I Could Tell You was one such read that startled me right in the middle of the story.

And now, I have another book that yet again managed to jolt me upright; that made me wonder in disbelief. Read on to know what I think of Murali K Menon’s debut book, The God Who Loved Motorbikes and how was my experience of reading it.

What to expect?

Expect a book that is a one of a kind read. Expect a book that worships all things motorbikes. Expect a book that has the idyllic setting of a sleepy Malayali village. Expect a book that no matter how hard you try will not fit into one genre and hence needs a separate genre for itself – let’s call it absurdist fiction with a punch of magical realism. And finally, expect a book that is amazing yet unbelievable.

Who can read?

The book is written in a relatively simple language but the story itself is best suited for readers who are voracious or at the least of intermediate level.

Who should read?

Since the book is about all things motorbikes, I believe bikers and motorcycle lovers all over the world would enjoy going on this mini-adventure that the god KK Swamy takes us on.

Let’s talk about the story

Located right in the middle of Kerala, is a sleepy little village called Kollengode and Kandakarnan Swamy is its presiding deity. KK Swamy has lived in the village for generations but unlike others, he doesn’t revel in the idyllic setting of cobalt blue hills contrasted with lush green paddy fields and swaying coconut fronds.

His life changes when he first sets his eyes on the beautiful Norton Dominator, a magnificent bike owned by a local youngster called Koman Kutty. Something is set afire in that fleeting moment and a slow but intense passion starts brewing in the heart of KK Swamy. This book is the story of KK Swamy and his quest for the mythical and elusive Velocette Venom Thruxton HT, a bike that remains the stuff of legends until KK Swamy vows to find it.

How good are the characters?

For me, The God Who Loved Motorbikes is all about its characters. Every single character is a masterpiece in itself. The village deity turned biking enthusiast Kandakarnan Swamy has managed to make it to the list of one of my favourite characters of all time.

Everything about him is larger than life and yet he is humble to the core. This book is as much the story of KK Swamy as it is of bikes. I love how he eventually evolves with time and embraces technology just like any modern man.

Other characters including the deity’s confidante Koman and the elusive biker Chowfin Singh were amusing as well. I also love the way the Velocette Venom Thruxton HT assumes a character of its own. Its journey being as engrossing as that of any other character.

What about the author’s writing style?

The book starts on a very interesting note. The first hundred pages are just amazing and the anticipation itself is enough to bind the reader to the fate of Kandakarnan Swamy. There is a strong hint of magical realism but the story connects and manages to hold itself together. What follows later is chaos personified that throws the story onto a very different tangent; one that does not make sense at all.

Here is one prewarning I would give to potential readers – you would either love it immensely or hate it vehemently. There is no between when it comes to The God Who Loved Motorbikes.

It’s true that I enjoyed reading the book and that it challenged me as a reader but it’s also true that I had a hard time making sense out of it. Going back to the previous pages, trying to connect the dots and distilling logic from what seems to be defying every rationale were just a few of the issues I faced while reading the book.

What did I like?

There is no doubt that this book is meant for passionate bikers and biking enthusiasts who know their brands and their makes. But even for a non-biker like me, this book held a lot of promise. I loved the simple and idyllic village setting of Kollengode. I also enjoyed reading about a god who is as clueless as his human counterparts. KK Swamy wanders the small village without any idea of who he is and what is the purpose of his existence. His actions, feelings and inner turmoil are so humanlike and relatable.

What did I not like?

I did not like the way the first half of the book is so disconnected from the latter one. It feels like the author starts with one story and jumps off to another one without giving much thought to the idea of a book as a cohesive whole.

What could have been better?

A little more sanity and uniformity would have made an otherwise decent read a great one. While the book does manage to tell us a fascinating story, there are multiple loopholes that need attention. Too many open-ended conclusions made the reader in me a tad disappointed.

Is the climax good?

Yes, the climax is good. But there is this nagging feeling that something isn’t right. Maybe it is the way the book is concluded hastily or the way in which the quest comes to an end. It is difficult to pinpoint it but there is an unsettling feeling that the reader experiences in the end.

It all boils down to entertainment

There is no dearth of entertainment in the book. It is hilarious where it is supposed to be, it is mythical and mysterious in all the right places. It doesn’t reveal all its wonders in one go but rather teases the reader throughout its course for that which lies ahead. For somebody as passionate about bikes as the god KK Swamy, it would surely turn out to be one hell of a read.

In the end

In the end, Murali K Menon’s The God Who Loved Motorbikes is not just a book. It is a feeling; it is a journey in itself that is so wondrous and yet sometimes so incongruous. It is a battle fought in tandem with a never-ending quest for an elusive god – not the god who loved motorbikes but the god of all motorbikes.

My final verdict

Do give it a try!

Pick it up if

  • Books with magical realism are your thing.
  • You are passionate about bikes and/or are a bike nerd.
  • You are looking to challenge yourself as a reader and stretch your boundaries just a little.
  • The idea of a village deity cum biking enthusiast excites you.

Skip if

  • You don’t like books with elements of magical realism.
  • The idea of a story about god and bikes doesn’t excite you.
  • You don’t like books that sometimes go completely off tangent.
  • You always look for logic and rationale in every story that you read.

Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of The God Who Loved Motorbikes using the link below.