Shiva 3000 
Jan Lars Jensen
Paperback - 416 pages new edition (9 March, 2001) 
Pan; ISBN: 0330392379
Review by Lavie Tidhar

Check out this book at: Amazon US / Amazon UK

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.