Note: Read this review with the knowledge that I haven’t read ‘Zero Percentile (ZP)’
‘Zero Percentile 2.0’ is Neeraj Chhibba’s sequel to ‘Zero Percentile’ which was a bestseller when it released a couple of years back. Frankly speaking when I got the book from the author, I presumed that it was going to be another college love story, something which has become too common these days in the contemporary Indian literary world. Does it live up to those expectations or traverses a completely different path? Let’s see.
The blurb goes like this –
Life is fun only till it is simple … And, the ambition of being the biggest software company in the world can never be simple.
The lines of destiny tell the story of a torn-between-two-friends Priya; an afflicted-with-HIV Nitin and his struggle to not fall in love; a doting father and technologist Arjun; Diyaa, Arjun’s brilliant daughter with special needs; San, his love for the Babe, the most ambitious software product in the country, and Jaanvee; and the two best friends Motu and Pankaj.
Pankaj and Motu start a small software company called Numero Soft. Surrounded by friends Nitin, Priya and Arjun they never thought work was going to be difficult. Fortunes changed when a chance break took them to America – the land of golden opportunities. An overpowering desire to conquer the world, coupled with the hunger of doing it at any cost makes life hell. Ideologies clash and ultimately the friendship breaks apart.
A story of greed, love, friendship, conspiracy, an attempt to murder and a hostile takeover bid which ends in a pulsating climax after seven days of bitter fight for control.
The book begins quite slowly and predictably where the talk is centered on things like a takeover bid of one organization by another, a love story from IIT etc. But slowly the book gathers pace and starts chugging along like a well-oiled locomotive. The book balances three stories – Arjun, Diyaa and Muskaan’s; The takeover of PureConsultants by Numero Soft and Nitin’s battle with HIV pretty effortlessly. In such a scenario, it is always difficult to give equal importance to all the characters. But Neeraj does a good job of ensuring that no injustice is done as far as the characters and their respective stories are concerned.
The narrative is pretty structured and works quite well throughout without going too overboard anywhere. The story moves seamlessly across time zones and locations without making the reader feel confused. The last 7 days where all the action happens leading up to the climax is top notch. You wouldn’t want to keep the book down during those particular scenes.
The book, though a sequel in reality, has an individuality about it. Though at a couple of places a * is marked to show that the incident happened in the previous book, one wouldn’t really require the need to read ‘ZP’ since there’s nothing as such which can confuse the reader. With emotions like jealousy, hatred, greed, romance, courage, inspiration and much more, Neeraj has perfectly kept in mind the tastes of the Indian readers. I wouldn’t be surprised if this were to be made into a Bollywood flick at a later point in time.
But then the book isn’t without its share of problems. The biggest one is the title. For a person like me who has never read the first part, a title of this sort isn’t attractive to buy the book. Even the tagline “Missed IIT Kissed Gurgaon’ doesn’t give the slightest idea what the book was eventually about. In an age where people are irritated to the hilt with college love stories, this is a big problem for ZP 2.0. Don’t really understand the point of having such a title at all. Yes the blurb is there. But then the title and tagline is what makes a reader think. And secondly, the book is quite clichéd in the sense that Neeraj has tried to include everything from societal issues to romance to corporate espionage. Though he does a good job, it becomes a bit too much about everything in the end.
The characterization is generally pretty well done. Since I hadn’t read ‘ZP’, I didn’t know how the characters (Motu, Pankaj, Priya etc.) actually grew up in school / college. I didn’t have any idea about their family background. In that context I feel Pankaj stands out as the greedy and money minded individual who is ready to sacrifice friendship, love and everything else just to become something. Motu is your Mr – Right who can’t really do anything unethically. He is the one who understands the practicality of things. Priya as Pankaj’s love interest has quite an important part in the story particularly during the climax. But in my opinion her characterization is a bit weak. Arjun – Diyaa’s relationship is sure to bring tears to many parents eyes. Muskaan doesn’t really have anything much to do in the story. And finally how could I forget the trio – Salem (the one man army at Numerosoft), San (the product master) and Janvee (the Queen of Finance) who do a marvelous job as well.
All in all it’s a pretty good read. You won’t be disappointed.
Rating – 3.5/5 (The disappointing title made me shift from 4 to 3.5)