Jan Lars Jensen
Paperback - 416 pages new edition (9 March, 2001)
Pan; ISBN: 0330392379
Review by Lavie Tidhar
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Re-inventing mythology in science fictional terms is an old theme of
the genre, most personified, perhaps, by Roger Zelazny. Jan Lars Jensen,
a new Canadian author, has set himself to tackle Indian mythology in his
first novel, Shiva 3000, the same subject Zelazny reworked in the
Hugo winning Lord of Light. Jensenís India is a curious mixture
of an old fashioned past complete with persecuted Buddhist monks,
a return to a monarchic system, and general squalor with lo-tech
accessories like trains and guns and futuristic, bizarre machines.
Rakesh is a young Hindu, sent by the goddess Kali herself to find and
kill the legendary Baboon Warrior, Indiaís popular
Hero-with-a-capital-H. The story of his quest, aided and abated by
Vasant, the Royal Engineer exiled from Delhi, unfolds slowly, but with
skill. Jensen portrays a hallucinogenic, fantastic landscape peopled
with gods and monsters - and wrecked by civil unrest and political
instability, caused in part by the mysterious death of the Sovereign,
reputedly by his First Wife.
Rakesh rescues Vasant from the unstoppable march of the great god
Jagganath, who levels everything in his path; takes them underground to
first encounter the strange Kama Sutrans, and the serpentine Naga;
through Jaipur, where a civil war seems imminent; and to the fortress of
the Pragamtic Monks, a Buddhist sect who seem to be studying Hindus.
Attacked by the six-armed royal Goonda warriors, the monks decide to
join Rakesh in his quest. The story is part introduction to Jensenís
many fabulous creations demon cranes, a Kama Sutran city, and the
internal workings of the Jagganath and part the growing
understanding of the monks of the India they live in.
Only in the final pages of this novel, when the quest reaches Delhi and
the Baboon Warrior himself, does the story become science fiction proper
and everything, as it were, is revealed.
Jensen is a good writer: the story is well written and the characters
believable. I have a problem, however, with his idea that a future India
will not only welcome, but enforce a Ďrealí system of Hinduism,
complete with animated gods, burned widows, and an imposed lack of free
will. Like Lord of Light, Shiva 3000 is also about
conflict with the gods. But in Jensenís future India, no one seems to
care very much.
Shiva 3000 is very good first novel, with some wonderful
creations and challenging ideas. Try it.