Indian authors have jumped on the Taliban-terrorism bandwagon, but the result is a bit of a mixed bag.

We live in a world petrified by the monster of terrorism. This will obviously reflect in fiction too. And it’s no surprise that Indian authors have jumped on to the terrorism bandwagon.

The Dust Will Never Settle by Mukul Deva is about terror-strikes in Jerusalem. The international community persuades the Israelis and Palestinians to resume peace talks. A peace summit is held in Delhi where negotiators are expected to try and wrest peace.

Caught amid this chaos are Ravinder Singh Gill and Ruby Gill who, unknown to each other, share a past. Ravinder is the head of the India Anti-Terrorist Task Force and in charge of securing the peace summit. Additionally, he is also responsible for securing the Commonwealth Games being hosted in the capital around the same time.

Ruby, apart from being an MI6 agent-turned-extremist, is Ravinder’s daughter. After the death of her Palestinian mother who was left abruptly by Ravinder when Ruby was small, and who dies in a terror attack in Palestine, Ruby takes on a freelance assignment to blow up the summit.

As she crosses tracks with her father, she realises that her mother had hidden many truths. Many Bollywood-esque father-daughter confrontations later, Ruby decides to let her sense of duty prevail.

Author Mukul Deva, who is an ex-Indian Army officer, has given a vivid picture of the issues affecting Israel and Palestine. But the father-daughter confrontations, the high-speed chases seem straight out of a Bollywood pot-boiler. The climax is pretty predictable and the novel fails to “come alive”.

Next up is The Edge of The Machete by journalist Abhisar Sharma. Set against the backdrop of the “Beast” — a harsh terrain in Khyber (Pakistan) occupied by terrorists from Mullah Omar’s Taliban — the book centres on three main characters: a journalist, an undercover CIA agent and a crazy jihadi.

When CIA agent Jason Wilson is brutally slain by Aamir Shehreek, his best friend and CIA agent Eduardo Gomez decides to avenge his death. Gomez devises a brilliant plan to infiltrate the dreaded “Beast” and changes his identity to Sarfaraz Khan. There he comes across kidnapped Indian journalist Rahul Sharma. Rahul spends every day cowering under the fear of death.

Add to this Shaun Marsh aka Shahid Khan — a British Muslim who, confused by his life in London, decides to follow his “calling,” but gets caught in the quagmire of his own emotions and beliefs.

The plot is brilliant, as are supporting characters. But the book is definitely not meant for the faint-hearted, given its gruesome and brutal descriptions.

And finally there is Zombiestan by Mainak Dhar. The story begins in the Taliban-occupied mountains where a bunch of Taliban fighters inhale a deadly toxic chemical compound that can convert humans into zombies. They then spread across the world for their respective missions and soon morph into a gruesome masks of pus and blood with the quintessential black turban on the head. As the toxin takes over, one zombie on an aeroplace starts biting his co-passengers, who also turn into zombies!

Soon, the world is seized by these “Biters” who ravage cities, biting, killing ripping anything they can, so that their tribe increases. No weapons seem to have any effect on them.

The ones who team up to end the menace are a US Navy SEAL David Bremsak; an author Hina Rahman; a spoilt brat Mayukh Ghosh; teenager Swati and her little brother Abhi.

As they move from shelter to shelter warding off the Biters, especially protecting little Abhi, they get unexpected help from a retired Lt. General Purohit who discovers that the Biters are killed by fire. From thereon, the narrative flows into Ladakh where they reach an ashram whose inmates want to surrender Abhi to the Biters because he is unaffected despite being bitten.

The story, though interesting, is long-winded and too descriptive. Also, while the whole plot hinges on Abhi’s not being affected, there is no explanation for the phenomenon leaving the reader dissatisfied and in a limbo.

Too many sub-plots also distract from the main story. All in all, worth it if you’re a fan of psycho-thrillers.

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