I’ve never had a chance to read a novel with the theme of speculative fiction, and frankly had never even heard of it before picking up this book. Akshan: The Reckoning by Nalin Mittal is the first book in the trilogy under the genre of utopian-dystopian India, a futuristic story following the protagonist Dhruv Saxena and his group of friends as they get embroiled into events concerning the nation and its future.
The country is in turmoil, there has been an epidemic outbreak in the south, the north has been plunged into darkness, the middle is on the brink of a civil outbreak, the economy has been crippled and there are high chances of the war with the Gulf nations. Amidst all this chaos, Dhruv and his college friends, Balti, Nikhil, Yash, Ash, Prateek, and Dumkee, meet up after two years and revive their truth-seeking, justice serving and balance restoring entity they had created during their years as students, Akshan, formerly called Rakshan. What begins as a mere hobby for these out of job graduates to pass the time until the situation gets better, soon turns into a nightmare when the capital is rattled by a series of murders and homicide, all of which point towards them. With the CBI on their heels, and their lives in danger, this bunch of friends must survive against all odds to prove their innocence and nail the real culprit behind all the horrendous stuff, all the while dealing with their emotions and personal relations with each other. They face the real test when one of them is blamed to be a mole by another.
Who is it that is targeting Akshan? Apart from them, nobody has a clue as to what Akshan is and what it does. So, where did this person/entity got hold of their doings in such details which made it able to put them on the radar so easily? Will they succeed in time or will they perish? Is all that it seems to be? Or is there a bigger picture they are yet to see?
Written in simple English, the use of language was cogent. Apart from a few editing errors, there seemed to be no faults whatsoever. The narration is in the third person and flits between the past and the present. These flashbacks and the mixing up of the timelines were too much for me to handle initially, causing much confusion, disconnect, and several go-backs to the previous chapters, but the more I progressed into the story, more the clarity dawned and interesting it became. Over the course, a lot of back and forth kept happening, and if I admit that it wasn’t the requirement of the story, I would be naive. Although it seemed unnecessary, by the time I was halfway, I was turning the pages as quickly as my speed permitted and started appreciating the author’s efforts. However, the writing could have been polished more, and given the fact that the plot itself was a complicated one, some unimportant descriptions could have been done away with a crisper and shorter version. I felt really stupid when it came to engineering parts of the story, the technicalities of the stuff that was used by Akshan for their aid, and probably would have liked it more had it been explained in layman’s terms.
The theme of the novel has been dealt with intricately, a balance between the utopian and dystopian was established. The very striking factor about the book was that there was no sub-plot or sub-characters whatsoever, everything was a part of the main plot and the bigger picture, which was kept well hidden for quite some time. The plot was made multifaceted, multi-layered, and multi speculative. What was thought of as a distraction, turned out to be a major factor in shaping up the story. Also somewhere along, a few things were let loose which ignited my mind to think and predict some points.
Coming to the characters, I honestly didn’t find much building up, not that I expected it due to the already intricate plot. Apart from the basic structure and information about them, most of, in fact, all the characters that played important roles left open spaces in them for the reader to speculate, although I feel that it was fine leaving them as such.
Since this book is first in the trilogy, the ending was, of course, left open but not before giving speculation as to what can be expected in the coming books. Go for it if you like on the edge plotlines, and don’t mind waiting for the next one to come out.