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Updated: April 3, 2014 11:35 IST

Of power and survival

LAVANYA MOHAN
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Terror On the Titanic by Samit Basu
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Terror On the Titanic by Samit Basu

A historic ship, a legendary jewel, a race to save the world… Samit Basu’s Terror on the Titanic sets a smart pace for the Morningstar Agency series.

The first of Samit Basu’s Morningstar Agency novels for young adults, Terror on the Titanic is an account of a jewel heist — one plotted by The Morningstar Agency — that takes place in 1912 onboard the legendary ship.

The Morningstar Agency is centuries old and is headed by the mysterious, supposedly immortal Mr. Morningstar. His handpicked agents are involved in missions that have impacted history as we know it.

The agency is after the Eye of the Empire, a ruby that is said to possess a power that could potentially threaten the survival of our species. It is up to Morningstar agents Nathaniel Brown and Genevieve Lupin to retrieve the gem and save the world.

Setting the pace

The narrative is racy and Basu does not waste any time in getting to the story. There are no lengthy introductions to the characters but their histories are told as the story progresses. This was where the book got interesting because the characters are spin-offs of the literary characters we have grown up with.

Nathaniel Brown, fresh out of the jungle and the narrator, is the son of Mowgli from Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book, and Genevieve Lupin, a master thief, is the daughter of is the daughter of Arsene Lupin (described as the great thief who kept referring to himself in third person).

To retrieve the Eye of the Empire, they must battle not just other men but also aliens known as Parloks and creatures called Golems that are half-robot and half-human, each with its own agenda. A large part of the setting is based on the screenplay of James Cameron’s Titanic.

Fresh look

Despite the extraordinarily inventive spin and events, there are times when the story doesn’t completely feel like the author’s own. Another gripe (albeit small) was the footnotes. They are witty, but break the pace occasionally. These, of course, were minor faults because overall, the book was funny, fresh and holds the promise of a great series.

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