Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Review: Johnny Gone Down
Author: Karan Bajaj
Publisher: Harper Collins (April 2010)
Nikhil Arya has fallen.
Once, he was an Ivy League scholar with a promising future at NASA; now, at forty, he is broke, homeless, and minutes away from blowing his brains out in a diabolical modern-day joust.
It wasn't meant to be this way. unbelievable An innocent vacation turned into an epic intercontinental journey that saw Nikhil become first a genocide survivor, then a Buddhist monk, a drug lord, a homeless accountant, a software mogul and a deadly game fighter. Now, twenty years later, Nikhil aka Johnny is tired of running. With the Colombian mafia on his trail and his abandoned wife and son ten thousand miles away, he prepares for his final act, aware that he will have lost even if he wins.
Or will he? Is there any greater victory than living a life that knows no limits, a world that has seen no boundaries?
I had read the summary of this book and was intrigued by it. So, when a friend had it on his bookshelf, I grabbed it. Here's my review.
The book charts the fantastic journey of Nikhil Arya, who goes from being an MIT grad to a deadly game fighter. The author has granted Nikhil with almost bizarre luck and cat-like nine lives. He constantly falls into unbelievable situations, and easily manages to come out of them unscathed and successful. The story is told in flashback mode, starting in 1975, with Sam, Nikhil's langotiya yaar, convincing him to take a vacation in Cambodia. Nikhil, despite his misgivings goes along with the plan without checking the current affairs. (Unbelievable situation No. 1: they are MIT grads… you expect us to believe this can really happen!) Anyway, what follows is Nikhil's bout with heroism after which he becomes a genocide victim who manages to escape Pol Pot. He falls into Buddhism (easily) and then takes up company with a drug lord (Shantaram anyone?), sets up a human version of Farmville and then, giving it all up, decides to end his life(huh??)!
What I liked about the book was that it was a very easy read. It was almost like watching a masala Bollywood movie. There is thrill, tragedy, romance, drama… add in a loyal best friend and exotic foreign locations and you have a blockbuster on your hands! The author comes across as highly influenced by Gregory Roberts' Shantaram, and makes sure that the book will appeal to an international audience. His writing style is fast paced and crisp. However, there are certain parts which are repetitive such as the Karma Yogi philosophy. It is the main theme, but doesn't need to be put in your face every time. Also, like I said, most of the story seems unbelievable and the ending didn't live up to the rest of the book.
All in all a decent read nothing extraordinary. I rate it 3/5. Ideally it would be a 2.5/5 but the 0.5 additional rating is due to the cool cover and the absolutely low price (Rs. 60).