“Red Jihad” is Sami Ahmad Khan’s first attempt at writing a novel. He has engaged in film production, teaching, theater and writing. His short stories, plays and articles have been published in magazines and academic journals. Does his first novel work? Let’s check it out.
The blurb goes like this –
2014: Pakistan has transitioned into a full – fledged democracy and is reconciling with India. However, there are forces working against this fragile peace. A Pakistani jihadi leader, Yasser Basheer, travels to the Red Corridor and enlists the support of an Indian naxalite commander, Agyaat. Their plan: to unleash Pralay, India’s experimental intercontinental ballistic missile, on the subcontinent.
As the missile changes course en route, it hits Pakistan and causes collateral damage. In response, Pakistan unleashes war on India. As the web of politics, deceit and treachery deepens, it turns out that there are larger interests at stake and bigger players involved in this combat. The battle for South Asia turns murkier as an Indo – Pak war threatens to embroil many other countries in the end game.
Have India and Pakistan sparked off the mother of all wars? A gripping thriller, Red Jihad explores probably the most feared nexus – between the jihadis and the Naxals.
At the outset, the concept of the book seems quite interesting. A coordination between the Naxals and the Islamists may not be entirely out of the question in the near future considering where our world is heading. Sami’s strategy of going for a captivating title or naming the missile as “Pralay” is sure to grab eyeballs. Sami’s research shows in the way he describes each and every military role, the aircrafts, the weaponry and arsenal. He makes it quite believable. Whether its the mention of Kasab or 26/11 or even Osama’s death, he ensures that the novel stays really contemporary and everyone who follows the news can associate with it.
The story moves at a fairly good pace throughout across nations. The narrative is quite coherent and keeps the viewer engaged fairly well. There are quite a few sequences which are gripping and are very important in taking the story forward.
But then there are moments where the book falters as well. At many places it seems as though Sami is giving more importance to explanation of the weaponry, hierarchy / leadership in the Army, the political scenario etc than the general story at hand. Though it does seem interesting in the whole context of the story, it may irritate quite a few readers who are looking for a lot more action. The pace of the story drops as a result at many points. Even the buildup to some of the main sequences of the story had the potential to make a bigger impact but somehow Sami seems to miss out.
General Malhotra as the chief of the army staff is one of the most important characters of the story. Sometimes egoistic and sometimes confused, Malhotra saves the country from disaster in the nick of time. Yasser Basheer is the man who comes up with the deadly plan of bringing together the Naxals and the Islamists. These are ably supported by a set of ministers, scientists, politicians and armymen.
A good read if you are a fan of military thrillers. Pick it up!
Rating – 3/5