Not long ago, in my public library, I noticed that one of the staff picks was The white tiger by Aravind Adiga, which I read in college for fun and fell in love with. Having not thought about him in years, I searched the library catalog and amazingly found that he had written a book of short stories and another novel. After leafing through the short stories, I remembered reading it a while ago but his latest novel Last man in tower was new to me so I checked out the eBook. Loving the first novel, this one had a lot to live up to and, for the most part, did.
What I remember loving about Adiga’s writing is the vibrant, tangible descriptions of India–not just the typical sights and sounds but even food and small details. Last man in tower did not disappoint in this regard. Though I haven’t visited, I feel like he has taken me around India in his writing.
Adiga’s characters are also another feat of his great ability. They are real and complex on the page, which makes it all the more believable and nearly a first-hand experience instead of a work of fiction. While the overall events are fairly mundane, the premise of the story propels it, along with the concern for the characters. As a reader, buy-in is important to me; if I don’t connect with and care about the characters then it’s not an enjoyable.
The plot wasn’t intriguing to begin with but as the novel went on, I was hooked. In a poorer neighborhood in Bombay, a gated community called the Society, is offered an exorbitant amount of money to sell their apartments and the grounds to a famous local builder who want to demolish everything and build new luxury housing. It’s a deal of a lifetime. Who would refuse? Well, it turns out, a few people including a retired science teacher; he will not take the money no matter what. The novel turns into lesson in peer pressure and how far people are willing to go, as no one can get paid unless they all agree. For most of the novel, neighbors, once friendly and generous, turn on each other to get the remaining hold outs to cave and progress to violence in order to get their way and sleep well at night.
While Last man in tower was good, I preferred his first novel since it had more action and adventure. However, this certainly took more work to pull off, with all of its wonderful characters and subtle yet sophisticated story, following various characters trying to achieve the same goal in their own way and mindset.
Recommended?: Yes, especially for fans of Aravind Adiga. If the premise sounds intriguing, then start with this one first and then read the others. Otherwise, try The white tiger if you crave more thrills. For anyone who like short stories, check out his Between the assassinations short sotry collection for a mix of everyday life in India among the common folk with bizarre characters and odd tales interspersed; it’s a fun, easy read and will show off Adiga’s amazing writing ability the quickest. As I write this, I long for his next work of fiction. It’s already been 4 years since his latest novel…I hope it’s not too much longer for whatever he’s working on now. Until then, I might have to start looking for similar Indian authors to keep enjoying my travels via pages.