The first thoughts that came to my mind after closing the book The Calcutta Chromosome were that the right writer but probably a wrong first book to read. He is a master storyteller. But somewhere towards the end, it seems he lost interest in the story he was set out to narrate. At least in this case.
In the beginning, for about 20-30% of the book, you try and get hold of all the characters. The places, the motive of the story and a futuristic machine called Ava. Once you know them all you start enjoying the brilliant narrative for next 30% or so of the book. With two parallel stories running in two different worlds and times, which you expect to converge in the end. And you keep guessing how will they do so. The story also gains some pace, throwing surprises here and there and weaving mysticism around the whole story and each of the characters. And just when you are expecting an expected but exciting convergence, the story just loses steam. The characters just merge into each other and lose their crispness. The story just gets lost in the mish-mash of Indian mythology and science fiction.
To be honest, I did not understand the end. Did not understand the reason for having Ava in the story. And the whole purpose of why the character from Egypt was trying to find the Calcutta Chromosome. The title itself is very loosely defined. And most people will not be able to comprehend the explanation. It seems towards the end, the author was in a hurry to finish the story. And hence just wrapped it up somehow. If he had maintained the narration like he did in the middle of the book, The Calcutta Chromosome would have been an extremely interesting book to read.
Having said that, I want to read his other books. As the reviews from people who had read his multiple books say, they were disappointed by this book of his. In fact, lots of them admitted having not understood this story at all, finding it too complex. I think more than complex it got confused in the end. And I definitely think that as a storyteller, he is great. So just read some of his better stories.
I would say skip this book.
You may buy this book – The Calcutta Chromosome A Novel of Fevers, Delirium and Discovery by Amitav Ghosh at Amazon India.