Anand Arungundram Mohan’s novel, the first in The Journey Series, The World’s Oldest, Most Powerful Secret Society is an out and out fantasy novel executed in a manner (wonderfully) that it comes in a position to utilise the present – Indian conditions, Indo-Pak relations, terrorism and others – and establishing a connection of the present to a mysterious past that he creates at the very beginning of his novel. The novel has been praised for its sheer fantasy, alternate reality that it has created in the past and has used that wonderfully in the present. Many a leading Indian book review site have opened sentences of praises to appreciate this work by Anand.
The novel opens in the battleground where Ashoka is fighting for Kalinga. Unfortunately, even the win could not attain satisfaction and Ashoka, disillusioned with life, announced renunciation as a Boudh Bhikshu. Hold on, that’s what the history books say. Anand comes up with his mysterious pack. The novel tells you that Ashoka created a secret society in which he inducted 9 very intelligent men to carry out scholarly research, investigation and literature writing and, eventually, prepare a Book of Power that will have advanced science (almost impossible science) which will be used for the benefit of humanity at large. Liked the idea? What are the advanced science theories? What are the inventions these scholars cover? What are the futuristic technologies? Where do they keep the book?
In the present, the novel zooms in on 9 ‘special children’ all born on the same day, having a single minute’s difference between each other, Ram being the eldest. These guys live with their families in a building called River Fall in Hyderabad and the year they were born was 2006. Rocky, Gopal, Leela, and Ali are other prominent members of the Nifty Nine, coined by Leela. An incident or rather an accident during a cricket match takes the life of Gopal and all other friends are sad for many days. However, the next thing that works like a propeller in the novel is the search for that book, the Book of Power which has, they say, the power to do many things one cannot imagine, including bringing someone back into life after the demise… really? This turn adds too much fun, excitement and chaotic scenes in the novel when the guys fly around in the chariots… they key turnaround in the plot comes when a letter by Gopal floats including the sentence:
PS: I received a strange email today. It read: “Eight will find what the Nine have left behind.”
Of course, the children find the book and they try to bring Gopal back from the dead as well. Moreover, they do many other things with the powers they realise the book has. However, is it the same book that the secret society formed by Ashoka had hidden somewhere? Are these guys, 9 in number, the same guys who died thousands of years ago? There are many strange twists in turns in the novel to keep the readers occupied until the conclusion which is perfectly a preparation ground for the next instalment in The Journey Series.
Coming to the critical aspects of the novel, it is thrilling and exciting – no doubts about it. However, the novel has many ambiguous elements which could have been and should be avoided when the author writes his next novel in the series. The novel has utilised many Indian elements from the ancient texts popular in South India and well-known all over India. Ratha or a chariot feature in many Indian ancient texts and these vehicles, run by the horses, had the powers to fly in the sky and even move on the water. This utilisation ensures that Anand becomes one of those authors, like Amish Tripathi and Ashwin Sanghi, who can connect the Indian past to the Indian present and give something wonderful to the readers as the end result. The narrative becomes underdeveloped as the novel progresses. The conversation threads become too open to losing the track as there is nothing which can qualify who is talking to whom. Though these incidents are very few in number to trouble the reading experience, a better version could have made it the best! To sum up, the novel is wonderfully prepared to take the readers to a joy ride and I would emphasise that The World’s Oldest, Most Powerful Secret Society is more a children’s and teen’s novel… you can get a copy of the novel from Amazon India by clicking the link below:
Review by Santosh for The Book Blog