Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Perfect Book for a Literature Lover

Long time back I had read a Malayalam book by Guru Nithyachaitanya Yathi titled Soundaryam, Anubhavam, Anubhoothi which was a collection of his essays on literature and arts. I was astounded by the way he takes apart the text, connects it with history, his own experiences, and other classics of past and comes up with fantastic insights about it. It changed my perceptions about reading and appreciating books. I used to be a voracious reader, with sole aim of finishing the book in hand as fast as possible and starting the next one. I used to skim a lot of sentences and paragraphs and properly read only that portions which dealt with the story. But Yathi’s book taught me how to really read a book. I won’t claim I am wiser now, or that I can decipher cryptal messages from the books that I read or that I am even trying to. But I hope this book that I read recently may take me onwards.

How to Read Literature Like a Professor, written by Thomas C Foster, an American professor of English, has an interesting tagline- A lively and entertaining guide to reading between the lines. He starts the book with an incident that happened when he was discussing Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun in his class. He points out that Mr. Lindner in the play is actually the Devil himself, his students never believe him.  Even after he explains his reasons, his class thinks he is making it up. The Professor explains that there is a ‘language of reading’ which is a skill that comes with a bit of practice and experience. In the preceding chapters, the trick of reading books with a Professor’s eye is revealed. 

The aim of the book is to help the reader understand the technique of reading in between lines- to find the patterns in a text, to read the hidden meanings behind the images in it or to find out connections it has with other previously written works. All these immensely help in appreciating the depth of literature and add to the pleasure of enjoying it. Author, with the help of many examples demonstrate different connections, patterns or images that repeat many times in different contexts. In the first chapter he demonstrates how a quest story is formed, when a knight follows a dangerous road in search of a Holy Grail. The contexts may differ, but the essence remains same. He goes on demonstrating how scenes of communion, vampirism, seasons, climate, geography, violence, disease, deformities or sex can be interpreted to find meanings of deeper social, political or psychological value. He also points out the most popular connections with previous works- Shakespeare, Bible, Greek epics and even fairy tales.

The witty and easily understandable language of the Professor makes the journey easy for us. But if we are to truly benefit from the book, it is not enough to just read it. Lot of practice is required, as well as good background knowledge, a step to which the author himself provides. A beautiful story by Katherine Mansfield is given in the last of the book for the reader to put use of his knowledge gained form the book. Analysis by some of the author’s students is also provided.

A word of caution for non- English readers- as the author is an English Professor; he deals mostly with English and to some extent European literature, where the aesthetics and values are derived from a Jewish/Christian background. For reading books from other cultures, say Chinese or Indian books, the pointers in this book may not be sufficient. Still this book can help to point out places to look in order to find the connections. All in all this is the perfect book for a literature lover, and added bonus is the great bibliography at the end of the book.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

One Straw Revolution: Zen & the Art of Organic Farming

In recent times there is a surge in the number of middle class people cultivating vegetables in Kerala. The reason- reports of widespread use of harmful fertilizers and pesticides in vegetables available in market.  If recent reports are to be believed, everything- food grains, pulses, vegetables, milk, poultry, fish and meat- comes to us adulterated. The frightening result is that people from Kerala are increasingly prone to severe lifestyle diseases. All the while, government has no efficient system to identify this malpractice and curb it. Organic vegetables are suddenly becoming a rage in the market, but the sellers are charging premium rates for the products. One visible improvement is that people are slowly getting warmed up to the idea of cultivating at-least some of the essential food products in whatever space available with them.

Now, in our industries we have this fetish for trying out Japanese innovations- Poke-yoke, Kaizen, Kanban, 5S and a lot many systems that are the pillars of Japanese efficiency. We use them injudiciously with varying success results.  It was with this background that I read this little book titled One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka, a Japanese farmer who invented the clever philosophy of Do-Nothing farming. This is a book that I feel each one of us should definitely give a try. Don’t panic by seeing its title. The book is not a text book on organic farming. It is one part autobiography and one part vision statement or I would prefer to say philosophy of Fukuoka. It is a rather simple and straight forward account.

Instead of using chemicals and large scale machinery equipment, Fukuoka claims that working in tandem with nature can achieve better results and keep the land perennially fertile. He stresses the importance of using common sense, studying the way things grow in nature and copying it to achieve results. Also Fukuoka places great importance in ethics of agriculture- food production should never be a business. The primary reason for cultivation should be self- consumption and then surplus can be sold outside.  The philosophy of Fukuoka is to make things simple by avoiding any unnecessary complications. He ridicules the agricultural scientists and engineers who visit his farm, which gives same level of production as that of neighboring farms which make use of machinery and complicated procedures.

In Fukuoka’s vision, a farmer should be a philosopher, a monk and a poet. I loved his argument that organic food should cost way less than regular products because the manufacturing cost is considerably low. He details his methodology in this book, but cautions that the reader should not just copy his method, but should adopt and fine tune it according to the geography and the crop. For this deep observation of nature and several trials may be necessary. He warns the reader not to be fooled by the wording Do-Nothing farming. It takes some time for the soil, inflicted by the chemical abuse to regain its fertility.  He says that we are unnecessarily straining ourselves by taking up the work that nature can do much more efficiently than us. Finding out such wastages can really help overworked farmer to spare some valuable time to sit back and relax, enjoy life’s little pleasures and even be a bit lazy!

Friday, April 24, 2015

God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

English biologist Richard Dawkins wrote his best-seller God Delusion in 2006. It is, as its title suggests, a book that criticizes the concept of God that is propagated by religion and that tries to put science in that mantle. It also exposes the troubles of being an atheist in Christian society and the common prejudices faced by atheists. Dawkins uses Darwin’s evolution theory and natural selection to prove that the probability of the existence of God as described in Abrahamic religions is almost nil. As expected, the book turned out to be very controversial with many theologians criticizing it bitterly in diverse forums.

The book has ten chapters, each one building on the previous in systematically proving the improbability of God and that religion is not basically responsible for virtues in humans. In the first chapter he quickly points out that, by God he doesn’t mean the Einsteinian God, but the interventionist God, that creates life, judges and metes out punishments.  Next he takes up different arguments for God, especially the one that states that the perfect designing of universe requires a master creator and one by one puts forth his rebuttals for each of them.

Dawkins is aware of the argument that even if there is no entity called God, religion is still essential for common people in-order to maintain its morals in society. In the remaining chapters he tries to reveal the fallacy of this argument by proving that morality and good virtues that we display are not due to the presence of religions among us. As per him religion occurred as a byproduct of an acquired human skill to transfer knowledge by believing one’s elders and following them. He is critical of Christianity’s stand with abortion. Dawkins also deals with several social issues created by religious faith- psychologically damaging and corrupting the minds of kids, leading them discard reason to become blind followers, commodification of women and forcing them out of the mainstream of society and creation of unnecessary divisiveness and friction in society.

In God Delusion, Dawkins put forward compelling arguments against a God figure that designed the universe, judge the inhabitants and punishes them. Majority of his arguments are built around Christian and Jewish faiths and predictably they end up his punching bags. He touches upon Islam. I agree with the logic of several of his arguments. Evolution indeed can solve many a puzzles in human history. I am also wary of the tendency of religions to fill in the gaps left by science. Dawkins’ language is witty and that makes the book an easy read though a bit toning down on the scorn that he exhibits towards religions could have made it more palatable. God Delusion helped me in appreciating the theory of evolution much more.  Fortunately, in this part of the world we don’t have the big fight in education system between Evolution and Creation.

One difference of opinion that I have with Dawkins concerns with the bifurcation of religion and spirituality. I believe that spirituality is something personal that exists beyond the realms of organized religion. It basically deals with introspection- something that is lacking in Abrahamic religions and is the core of Sanatani faiths- Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. Though these religions have, to some extent degenerated in their later periods, loosely imitating Abrahamic faiths and displaying sectorial tendencies, I feel the individual nature of faith and the inquisitiveness inbuilt in them still stand tall. This introspection is basically for knowing and realizing the full potential of self- of body and mind in tandem with nature, and subsequently for attaining the ultimate knowledge that My self and this Universe are in essence the same.    

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Book Review: Autobiography of a Mad Nation by Sreeram Karri

I was born in a mentally retarded country.

Sreeram Karri's explosive novel, Autobiography of a Mad Nation starts with this sentence. It gives the feel that this is going to be another long rant about all that is wrong with contemporary India. And it is, in a way. But on careful reading of the book we find that, what shines beneath is pure love for the nation. The novel, published by Fingerprint is longlisted for MAN Asian Literary Prize.

The novel starts with a rant by a young aspiring writer, Vikrant in death gallows awaiting President's mercy. Retired CBI chief Vidyasagar sets forth to find the truth by doing an unofficial investigation after a request from the President. He discovers that it is not a one off incident and there is more than what meets the eye to be discovered. A group of influential men are running manipulations behind the screens an trying to alter the course of Indian history. Is it for good or for bad?

Autobiography of a mad nation is a murder mystery in the outset. At the same time it serves as a look back into the bizarre and insane past of our nation. On one side a fast paced story unfolds parallel to the important historical incidents fom Indira Gandhi's emergency to Gujarat riots, while on the other we are served with some honest social an political observations that need not be on the politically correct realm.

The novel has a nonlinear narrative structure which unfolds in two paths- one is a first person narration of the fictional novel written by Vikrant and second is the actual story of the murders, coverup and investigation told mostly in flashbacks. The narration is stylish and intense. There is no doubt that Sriram Karri is a gifted storyteller wih enough honest passion to make the reader careful for his story and even gives it a serious thought while enjoying it.

The author should be appreciated for his guts to criticise the harmful elements of society without any political or religious bias. Many of the readers will surely be offended by the courage of Karri to call a spade, a spade. One complaint that I have to make is about the solution that the novel hints. I feel it may be ineffective, even extremely dangerous in long run. Yet I enjoyed reading this well crafted, powerful novel about contemporary India and would recommend it to anyone who feels at any point o time that they're living in an insane nation.

Book source: Publisher

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Staying One Step Ahead.

I received this email a few days back and thought it worthy of sharing with my readers. Enjoy:
The Taj hotel group had invited Mr. Masai Imai from Japan to hold a workshop for its staff.
The staff were very skeptical - the hotel is doing excellent business, this person from Japan has no exposure to hotel industry - what exactly is he going to teach?
But everybody gathered as planned for the workshop in the conference hall sharp at 9 am.
Mr. Masai was introduced to them - a not so impressive personality, nor the English all that good; spoke as if he was first formulating each sentence in Japanese and then translating it into rather clumsy English.
"Good morning! Let's start work. I am told this is a workshop; but I see neither work nor shop. So let's proceed where work is happening. Let's start with the first room on the first floor."
Mr. Masai, followed by the senior management, the participants, the video camera crew trouped out of the conference room and proceeded to the destination.
That happened to be the laundry room of the hotel.
Mr. Masai entered the room and stood at the window, "beautiful view!" he said.
The staff knew it; they need not invite a Japanese consultant to tell them this!
"A room with such a beautiful view is being wasted as a laundry room. Shift the laundry to the basement and convert this into a guest room."
Aa Haa! Now nobody had ever thought about that!
The manager said, "Yes, it can be done."
"Then let's do it," Mr. Masai said.
"Yes sir, I will make a note of this and we will include it in the report on the workshop that will be prepared." Manager
"Excuse me, but there is nothing to note down in this. Let's just do it, just now." Mr. Masai.
"Just now?" Manager
"Yes, decide on a room on the ground floor/basement and shift the stuff out of this room right away. It should take a couple of hours, right?" asked Mr. Masai.
"Yes." Manager.
"Let's come back here just before lunch. By then all this stuff will have got shifted out and the room must be ready with the carpets, furniture etc. and from today you can start earning the few thousand that you charge your customers for a night."
"Ok, Sir." The manager had no option.
The next destination was the pantry. The group entered. At the entrance were two huge sinks full of plates to be washed.
Mr. Masai removed his jacket and started washing the plates.
"Sir, Please, what are you doing?" the manager didn't know what to say and what to do.
"Why, I am washing the plates", Mr. Masai.
"But sir, there is staff here to do that." Manager Mr. Masai continued washing, "I think sink is for washing plates, there are stands here to keep the plates and the plates should go into the stands."
All the officials wondered - did they require a consultant to tell them this?
After finishing the job, Mr. Masai asked, "How many plates do you have?'
"Plenty, so that there should never be any shortage." answered the Manager.
Mr. Masai said, "We have a word in Japanese -'Muda'. Muda means delay, Muda means unnecessary spending. One lesson to be learned in this workshop is to avoid both. If you have plenty of plates, there will be delay in cleaning them up. The first step to correct this situation is to remove all the excess plates."
"Yes, we will say this in the report." Manager.
"No, wasting our time in writing the report is again an instance of 'Muda'. We must pack the extra plates in a box right away and send these to whichever other section of Taj requires these. Throughout the workshop now we will find out where all we find this 'Muda' hidden."
And then at every spot and session, the staff eagerly awaited to find out Muda and learn how to avoid it.
On the last day, Mr. Masai told a story.
"A Japanese and an American, both fond of hunting, met in a jungle. They entered deep jungle and suddenly realized that they had run out of bullets. Just then they heard a lion roaring. Both started running. But the Japanese took a short break to put on his sports shoes.
The American said, "What are you doing? We must first get to the car."
The Japanese responded, "No. I only have to ensure that I remain ahead of you."
All the participants engrossed in listening to the story, realized suddenly that the lion would stop after getting his victim!
"The lesson is: competition in today's world is so fierce, that it is important to stay ahead of other, even by just a couple of steps. And you have such a huge and naturally well endowed country. If you remember to curtail your production expenditure and give the best quality always, you will be miles ahead as compared to so many other countries in the world.", concluded Mr. Masai.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Book Review: Warrior by Olivier Lafont

Books based on Indian mythology is a rage these days. One recent entry into that long line is the mythological fantasy novel Warrior written by Olivier Lafont and published by Penguin Books. Olivier Lafont is a French actor and writer residing in Mumbai. He has acted in many movies and ads. If you want me to pinpoint, he's Kareena's fiancée in 3 Idiots. To be sincere, that was one of the reasons why I agreed to review Warrior, another reason was Penguin being the publisher of it. Some of the best books that I read from my childhood were Penguin paperbacks. Let's see how Warrior stood up to my expectations.

Saam is the son of Destroyer, God Shiva. He is an immortal demigod, living in disguise as a watchmender on Marine Drive, with his mortal mate Maya. One fine day Apocalypse strikes when a faceless enemy triggers a chain of events. Probably Saam is the only one who can avert the end of the world, but for that he has to race against time and find the clues from the long lost Kaal Veda. Joining him are six other companions, some of whom he can barely trust, like his half brother Ara, the spider.

Lafont's hero Saam is the typical brooding, soul-searching, wounded-by-the-past kind of super hero of our time. The other motley characters of the novel also follows existing super-hero/fantasy protocols to the book. But the author succeeds in making them endearing to us by painting them in every extreme shades possible. The varying kind of insanity prevailing in each one of them makes us overlook the familiarity. I especially loved the reckless Ara, with his sarcastic comments and Fazal, the only somber entity in the lot, who strangely become pivotal to the plot many a time.

The plot is epic in scale and covers a lot of geography and history. From Mumbai China to a parallel universe with perpetual fighting machines as inhabitants, from present day to British Raj to the rule of Ming dynasty, the scope of the novel is vast. Writer also touches various subjects on his way- mythology, ethics, time travel, science, romance and politics being only some of them. He succeeds in skillfully interweaving all these into his plot without making the reader feeling bogged down.

I also loved the author putting a sudden break to the relentless initial pace by making all characters assemble in a timeless world. It dragged the narrative a bit, but the insights gathered there helps the reader to appreciate the later developments fully. It also adds a certain depth to the plot. Warrior can be a delight for fantasy-science fiction lovers thanks to the thick, satisfying plotting.

Book Source: Author

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Biography of Goebbels: Propaganda for Dummies

Every institution- be it a political party, a religious outfit, a charity organization or even a democratically elected government, for its ultimate survival, has to ensure that it promotes itself and its messages reaches the mass, and the mass in-turn behaves in a way suitable for them. For these ends they resort hugely to propaganda- a word that has become much hated for the implication of its manipulative intentions. I have in the last few months developed an interest in observing the modus-operandi of propaganda generation. That was one reason when I got a chance to read the book Goebbels: A Biography, I grabbed it eagerly. 

The rise and fall of Germany during the Second World War is one instant in history were the worrisome effect of propaganda in swaying public opinion is demonstrated. The whole nation stood behind its Fuhrer and his atrocities, due to the massive propaganda propagated by a separate ministry and its chief Joseph Goebbels. The historical influence of Goebbels is so deep that even an adjective, Goebbelsian is coined to denote any mass manipulation propaganda aimed to deceive people. 

Goebbels was born in a normal German family, with a club foot and associated psychological complexes. He had intense literary ambitions. From an insecure young man, Goebbels grew into a self-congratulating narcissist, who was clamoring for approval from others. His defining moment came with his meeting with Adolf Hitler. For him Hitler became the ultimate authority to be loyal to, like a messiah. (The height of this loyalty can be seen when after Hitler’s suicide, Goebbels kill his children and along with his wife, commit suicide.) Due to his extraordinary oratory skills, Goebbels raises through the ranks to become the propaganda minister of Third Reich, enduring severe infighting with his colleagues. His manipulation of the herd mentality of ordinary people is one reason why the German public failed to condemn the atrocities against Jews and other human right violations that were rampant under Hitler’s rule.

Peter Longerich, the author of this biography has taken the diaries of Goebbels as his source material. He has succeeded in making several profound insights into the psyche of Goebbels. The book is very detailed, spanning just short of thousand pages and needs a patient reading. It is a tough nut for a casual reader to crack. For me, several parts were tiresome to read by, especially those about his romantic relationships. But the details on his efforts in spreading the Nazi propaganda were worth the effort. It uses a multitude of techniques like selective disbursement, toning down, falsifying, intensifying, and skillful skewing of information and is done through every possible medium available then- newspapers, cinema and radio. It is an immensely helpful tool for public to understand the workings of propaganda machines, the process behind which, I feel has not changed much from that time.       

Book Source: Netgalley

Buy the book :

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


സീന്‍ ഒന്ന്
രംഗം- മാണിഭവനം

മാണി- മോനേ ജോസേ, അപ്പന്‍ നിനക്ക് കെട്ടാന്‍ ഒരു പെണ്‍കൊച്ചിനേ കണ്ടു വച്ചിട്ടുണ്ട്.

ജോസ്- ദേ അപ്പച്ചാ, ഒരു മാതിരി...

മാണി- ടാ മോനേ, ഇത് അംബാനീടെ മോളാടാ...

ജോസ്- എന്നാ എനിക്ക് ഓക്കെയാ അപ്പച്ചാ..

സീന്‍ രണ്ട്
രംഗം- പ്രധാനമന്ത്രിയുടെ ആപ്പീസ്

മാണി- പി എമ്മേ, എന്‍റെ മോന്‍ ജോസിനെ റിസര്‍വ് ബാങ്ക് ഗവര്‍ണറാക്കണം.

പി എം- ഒന്ന് പോടേ, ഇവിടെ പണി പഠിച്ചവന്മാര് ക്യൂ നില്‍ക്കുമ്പോഴാ...

മാണി- സാറേ, അവന്‍ അംബാനീടെ മരുമോനാ...

പി എം- ഓ.. താനൊരു കാര്യം ചെയ്യ്. കാലത്ത് അവനെ ഇങ്ങ് വിട്. ഓഡര്‍ കൈപ്പറ്റി ഉച്ചക്ക് മുന്നേ ജോലിക്ക് കയറട്ടെ. പിന്നെ രാഹു തുടങ്ങും.

സീന്‍ മൂന്ന്
രംഗം- അംബാനിമന്ദിരം

മാണി- ചേട്ടായീടെ മോളെ എന്‍റെ കൊച്ചന്‍ ജോസിന് ആലോചിച്ചാലോ?

അംബാനി- അറിയാന്‍ മേലാഞ്ഞിട്ട് ചോദിക്കുവാ... താനാരുവാ?

മാണി- ഞാനാരെന്നത് നിക്കട്ടെ, ചെക്കന്‍ റിസര്‍വ് ബാങ്ക് ഗവര്‍ണറാ...

അംബാനി- കല്യാണം രണ്ട് മാസത്തില്‍ നടക്കണം, ശേഷം ഒരു വിദേശകമ്പനി ഏറ്റെടുക്കുന്നതുമായി ഞാന്‍ തിരക്കിലാകും. പിന്നെ അറിഞ്ഞില്ലാ പറഞ്ഞില്ലാന്ന് കുറ്റം പറയരുത്.

സ്റ്റേജില്‍ വെളിച്ചം മങ്ങി വരുന്നു. എല്ലാ കഥാപാത്രങ്ങളും കയറിവന്ന് അരണ്ട വെട്ടത്തില്‍ ആനന്ദനടനം ചെയ്യുന്നു. താളം മുറുകിവരുമ്പോള്‍ കര്‍ട്ടന്‍ വീഴുന്നു. ആ കര്‍ട്ടന്‍ തലയില്‍ വീണ് പൊതുജനം എന്ന കാണിയുടെ ബോധം മറയുമ്പോള്‍ നാടകം സമാപിക്കുന്നു.

കടപ്പാട്- Readers digest മാസികയില്‍ പണ്ട് വായിച്ച ഫലിതം.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Comment by Giriraj Singh and The Fair Game

“Agar Rajiv Gandhi koi Nigerian ladies se byaah kiye hote, gori chamra na hota, toh kya Congress party uska netritwa sweekarti kya?"

Union minister Giriraj Singh uttered these lines last day and following his universal condemnation, even from his own party, has expressed regrets. As a responsible leader, he should never have said something like this. Anyone can see through the racist tone of his remarks.

First thing, it is wrong to generalise a women of one nationality and secondly he spoke of them in degrading tone. Third issue is that as Sonia is holding a responsible position from several years now and has proven her mettle, it is ridiculous to opine that her merit is her skin color. So it is indeed a shameful, politically motivated, sexist and racist remark that the minister made.

Being settled on all that, let us just go a bit more deep into his statement. If hypothetically we imagine that Rajeev Gandhi had indeed married an African and if she is as qualified and skilled as Mrs Gandhi is now, would we as a nation had given her the same level of acceptance? Just give it a thought with all your heart, with all your sincerity.

It is a known fact that Indians have an obsession with fair skin. A fair skin is our first identity of beauty, of innocence, of charm. We need our female actors and cultural icons to be fair skinned. In our market are numerous products that promise fairer skin to its customers. On our TV and other media we encounter ridiculous advertisements that praise the benefits of fair skin. And many of us shamelessly buy and use them, fully aware their promises are empty. Engaan biriyani koduthaalo?

After condemning the minister for his irresponsible remarks, it will also be worthwhile to just look into the Pandora's box that he has opened. In it we may find a face mirror and on that mirror we may see a hideous face staring back at us.

The Veteran by Forsyth: Quick Shorts

I have found Frederick Forsyth novels consistently enjoyable. The deep research that evidently went behind each of his books gives the stories much credibility. Also the way he mixes facts and fiction is commendable. The background information-trivia- that he provide for the readers in many novels are fascinating. That was the reason when I saw that The Veteran was a collection of five novellas, I was a bit turned off. I was worried that the short story/novella format may not suit Forsyth's elaborate style of narrating stories.

The Veteran, the opening story is a police procedural. It starts with the mugging and killing of an unidentified man and the police arresting two criminals, thanks to a sound witness and solid proofs. But a very successful attorney appears for the convicts and causes their acquittal, only to ensure that natural justice prevail. Breakneck speed is the only thing that keeps our interest in the story. The twist ending was predictable, but satisfying.

Art of The Matter is a heist story set in an auction house that deals with paintings. When he loses his job due to a fraud committed by his superior, an ex-employee decides to take revenge by teaming up with an out of work actor, another victim of fraud. This one is my favorite due to the elaborate setting of the plot and detailing. Suspense element does not play much of a role.

In the third story, titled The Miracle, an American tourist couple in Sienna meet a stranger who tell them a mesmerizing story of a miracle that happened right there during the Second World War. Though in the end the story turns out much simple than anticipated, that makes the twist more enjoyable. Point to note is the mastery displayed in narrating the story. I could visualize the entire happening.

In the fourth story, titled The Citizen, the author really falters. It is about international drug trafficking through commercial airlines. The plot tries to be too clever and the climax tries to be manipulative. This resulted in an unsatisfactory ending.

The fifth novella, Whispering Wind is the longest of all. Here an American scout in Montana loves a Cheyenne girl in 1850s, but she gets married to someone in her community. The man wakes up in the next century and after facing much hardships, gets successful in getting back the love of his life. The narration of this story is top notch and that helped me to adjust with the sudden shift to fantasy.

Forsyth is successful in assembling a bunch of stories displaying an astonishing range. Plotting is great. Pacing is frantic to say the least. Narration is fantastic. The forced twist endings doesn't work in some stories. Characterization is totally lacking. Overall, keep the expectations a bit low and here is your perfect holiday read.