The Calcutta Chromosome is an acclaimed science fiction medical thriller written by Amitav Ghosh in 1995. It can be called as a semi historical fiction because its plot deals with the discovery of parasites causing malaria by Nobel Prize winning scientist Sir Ronald Ross in Calcutta. The novel implies that it was a group of Indian mystics who actually helped Ross in his discovery to further their own secret research on attaining eternal life. The author has used Ross’ autobiographical work Memoirs for establishing several actual characters with fictional background into the novel. The novel received Arthur C Clarke Award in 1997.
In a distant future, Antar, an overworked computer programmer of LifeWatch Organization in New York starts searching for his long lost colleague Murugan, when he strikes upon an old ID card. Murugan had requested a transfer to Calcutta in 1990s to track the life of Sir Ronald Ross and was missing from then. Antar investigates the disappearance of Murugan through several old documents. He finds that Murugan had unearthed a deadly secret that can change the destiny of mankind. The plot of The Calcutta Chromosome unveils in three different timelines. In a distant future Antar tracks Murugan’s investigation. Murugan is investigating the black holes in Sir Ronald Ross’ life in Calcutta in the 90s. Sir Ross is on his way to fame and honor, by discovering parasites responsible for Malaria thanks to the secret assistance of his servants Mangala and Lutchman.
I loved this novel mainly for the way facts and fiction is interspersed. Undoubtedly Mr. Ghosh has done some serious and enormous amount of research to come up with such a story! He does not show any restraint in dealing with technical aspects of the story like medical terms and such. This makes the book all the more convincing. The unique narrative like a maze and the dark atmosphere adds to the suspense element of the novel. The Calcutta Chromosome is a bewitching and clever thriller that not even for a single moment leaves the reader unsatisfied. The narration that unfolds in different places and different time periods is gripping, though may be confusing at times for a casual reader. The fact that the mystery is not solved fully at the end and left for the reader to fill in the blanks may irritate some. Still the effect of this novel to take the reader with it as the story flows to its culmination makes it worth a try.
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