Saturday, October 18, 2014

THE STERADIAN TRAIL -- Book Review

For a book with the plot based on sutras and numbers, naturally, the first chapter is given the number Zero and runs through until 66. First [Book # 0] in a three part series, rest to be published in the coming years as per the author's blog [link to be provided], it revolves around number crunching algorithms and their application in currency trading. 

History weaved with author's imaginative twists and turns makes the reading a pleasure. Sprinkled with mathematical conundrums (?), like the travelling salesman problem [link to wikipaedia], shortest path alogrithm [link to wikipaedia], the author also captures the anomalies and short-sightedness prevalent amongst us -- that of NOT preserving heritage in it's original form -- point in case being the building of memorial for Tyagaraja, one of the trinity of Carnatic music, by pulling down his eighteenth century home.

Maha Magam, Divya Desams, Sulab Sutras bring to focus the ancient tradition and learning representative of the region and by-gone era. This combined with that famous cab number 1729 and associated conversation between ailing Indian and his visitor at the hospital in Britain, conflict in the co-existence of animals and humans (only in writing, do the former come first in the order before humans) in IIT campus at Chennai, lesser known museum on the famous Indian mathematician is a true attesation to the author's handling of the characters and events alongwith those portrayed in this fictional work.

Invited to a technical conference in IIT, Madras, the protagonist, Joshua Eziekel, finds himself challenged on multiple fronts -- initially by two greenhorns during his presentation ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................., then in a series of encounters completely strange to his avowed profession ; to begin with, the incidence of meeting the US Consul General at the Madras airport, news of the murder of his PhD student in US followed by high drama of his laptop being stolen from the Oceanic (sure this name would kindle nostalgic memories for many old timers of Madras), ransacking of his university office in the US, late night calls (does it resonate with those working for US-based IT companies) with the principal investigator from US; icing on the cake proving to be a close encounter with the anonymous "supari" wallahs ramming the Amby using a water-tanker. 

How many stories have we heard of those daemons proving fatal for many pedestrians in Chennai roads, and no exception here too.

Divya and Venus (short for Venu Sampath) are true reflections of their generation, and their parents support them amply by chalking out the plan, portrayed by the author in flowchart format -- Pre-MS and Post-MS obligations.

"Lax" is a true exponent of that professor avatar in our IITs -- echelons of higher learning in India -- multi-tasking technical and non-technical tasks ; just-in-time review of the thesis of one of his students after repeated reminders, co-ordinating between various parties for conferences, assessing material damage brought on by the descendants of monkey God Hanuman and approving the cost for the lab restoration. Reluctant to start with, Lax teams up Josuha, later to be joined by Divya, and the trio is part of that core informal investigation team in India that makes an all-out attempt to gather all that they could, initially in dribs and drabs, to unravel the mystery behind the murder of Joshua's students in the US of A. 

Did they award the doctorate on that "renowned industrialist" ?

Snarling traffic moving at snail's pace is the bane of Indian cities and Chennai is no exception. While Durairaj's persona comes across as an engaging cab driver with his modest English and always on the lookout for foreign visitors at the Oceanic to earn those "bills" with George Washington face embellished on it, Nalathambi's expletives in "Madras Bashai", provoked by the less-caring Madras populace, raises the curiosity of Joshua and also Lax's eyebrows ; but the latter could not avoid Joshua's eagerness to have them translated.

Short chapters and well laid out fonts makes easy and quick reading. Publishers, Westland, have made also efforts to make e-book version available for those readers who prefer Kindles and Kobos. Running to 356 pages, the book is offered at a discounted price in some of the online portals compared to the printed version. 

ANNEXE:

Links to other reviews : http://www.mnkrish.com/reviews.html

Profile of M N Krish : http://www.mnkrish.com/about.html

On the making of Steradian Trail : http://www.mnkrish.com/blog.html