George Manavalan, who writes as Giorgio Groom, is the 20-year-old author of the Soldiers of Ares, a book which combines the two worlds of magic and technology

Soldiers of Ares by Giorgio Groom is set a hundred years after the Trojan War, The 100-year-old Achilles, along with a band of loyal soldiers sets out on another war. The loyal soldiers include an assortment of creatures such as human beings, a few gods such as Hephaestus, some Greek heroes such as Ajax and Daedalus, a Minotuar and a nymph.

Ajax, dresses casually in a t-shirt, takes swigs from a can of ‘ox-toxin’ (a drink for Minotaurs), Achilles drives a truck, Dionysus rules over Bacchus which is the largest producer of wine and alcohol and has many casinos and butler-bots (short for robots)…it is a fantastical world where magic meets technology, where genres collide.

The book is Giorgio Groom’s first literary venture, one he is excited about. The novel is the first in Giorgio’s New World Odyssey series. Giorgio, one might suspect is an Italian. But, it turns out Giorgio Groom is ‘international’ for George Manavalan — Giorgio for George and Groom for the literal translation of Manavalan. The second-year student of engineering at Karunya University, Coimbatore, took on the pseudonym so that “it does not put off people abroad since the book is available at e-stores such as Flipkart, Amazon, Bookadda and an e-version is available on Kindle.”

Careful choice

The same pragmatism drove George’s choice of subject because that is what his target audience, youngsters like him, will enjoy. He agrees that placing Homer’s characters in a radically-different, and unexpected context requires a certain degree of familiarity with the original stories and would have been a big task for a 19-year-old. “I read a lot and have read stories from Greek mythology. I did plenty of research before I started.” An interest in mythology (“Homer is my inspiration”) combined with a passion for Rick Riordian’s Percy Jackson series led to the book. He has kept the language and treatment simple. “I thought it would be great if the two worlds — magic and technology — collided.” The book was picked up by Notion Press, a self-publishing platform. It was released on August 3, George’s 20th birthday. The book even surprised his parents. His father Salim George, is an overseas education consultant and his mother Lissy runs a boutique.

The Kochi boy admits that when he started writing he had no plans to get it published, “but once the story began developing I felt more confident about getting it published.” The basic structure of the story came first, the sub-plots came later. The writing took a year; he combined it with classes at college. He literally burnt the midnight oil, working “early mornings and late nights”. His college, he says, has been very supportive and is proud to have a published author on their rolls. The feedback hasn’t started coming in but he is confident that his book will strike a chord with his target audience.

Being published aside, he plans to focus on his studies and writing. “As of now I have planned a trilogy. And if the book clicks then maybe I will concentrate on writing after my education.”