Book Review: ‘The Light at the End of the World’ by Siddhartha Deb

Immersive story!

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Book Title: The Light at the End of the World
Author: Siddhartha Deb
Publisher: Context
Number of Pages: 458
ISBN: 978-9357762885
Date Published: Apr. 25, 2023
Price: INR 549

The Light at the End of the World by Siddhartha Deb Book Cover

Book Review

The Light at the End of the World,” Siddhartha Deb’s ambitious third novel, takes readers on an epic journey across India’s turbulent history at four critical points. The narrative begins in a near-future India on the verge of collapse. Technological developments have created a fearsome “superweapon,” throwing the country into bloodshed and chaos. A former journalist is attempting to locate a colleague who may have potentially harmful government secrets in this mayhem.

The story then goes back to 1984, a time of conflict and sectarianism in the aftermath of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s murder. In this episode, a mercenary set out to find a guy who may be linked to the real-life Union Carbide tragedy, which had disastrous effects on the country. The readers are taken back to 1947, India’s partition. In this portion, Krishnan, a young veterinary student, sets off on a mission to discover the fabled airship known as the Vimana. The partition’s historical backdrop complicates Krishnan’s search, reflecting the instability and effects of that important moment.

Finally, the narrative returns to 1859 to introduce us to a British army commander on an expedition to the Himalayan home of the White Mughal, the enigmatic leader of a renegade anti-colonial complex. This section digs into the connection of mysticism and the supernatural with colonial reality, providing a unique perspective on India’s complicated past. Although the four portions of the book are only tangentially related, each story has recurring elements.

The characters’ journeys across time are connected by the idea of a quest narrative, which is pervasive. Deb deftly examines the complex relationships between mystical aspects and colonial and post-colonial realities, inspiring reflective thoughts on the future’s structure as it is fashioned from the tapestry of minor conflicts. The character of Bibi is adorable, realistic, and simultaneously touching.

Deb’s prose shines in each chapter, especially in depicting the 1984 events, successfully conveying the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s death and the power of American imperialism through Union Carbide. The near-future episodes are equally fascinating, presenting a nightmarish picture combining techno-skepticism and subtle mystery. The novel’s most considerable criticism, though, is its haphazard structure. While the pieces aim for a kaleidoscope experience, they feel more like loosely connected novellas than carefully woven novels. Regardless, “The Light at the End of the World” is a visionary book that beautifully analyses the intersection between history, mythology, and modern culture.

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Siddhartha Deb’s work is a razor-sharp and vast investigation of India’s rich historical fabric, mixing mythology and mysticism with real-world events. Despite its disjointed portions, the epic grandeur and evocative writing make the novel compelling. “The Light at the End of the World” is an innovative and thought-provoking novel that will appeal to those wanting a thorough and immersive investigation of India’s past, present, and future.

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