- Paperback: 373 pages
- Publisher: TreeShade Books (24 December 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9389237068
- ISBN-13: 978-9389237061
- Product Dimensions: 20 x 14 x 4 cm
- Customer Reviews: 32 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #52,413 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Predators and Prey Paperback – 24 December 2019
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“Interesting and Intriguing...!” - Ashwin Sanghi
“Abhinav Agarwal has a talent for pacing and the best thing about his writing is his ability to tell a yarn that never lets your attention deviate. His ability to pack in military and security detail is inspiring. He comes as a burst of fresh new talent in a little explored field of militaristic thriller writing in India. Enjoyed it a lot.” - Hindol Sengupta [Author, Journalist, Historian]
“The pace relentless, and the plotting without a lag. The reader will feel breathless with anticipation. The characters are super interesting. The Indian thriller comes of age. I want to see the show.” - Harini Calamur [Journalist, Documentary maker]
“A racy thriller that is superbly crafted and wholly satisfying, Predators and Prey is not to be missed.” - Anand Ranganathan [Author, Journalist, Scientist]
“You move with Abhinav’s characters, in settings that are alive with details, through plots that twist your mind’s spine. He makes his sentences sprint, his dialogues count, his chapters stream. A book you can’t let go until you finish it.” - Gautam Chikermane [Author, Journalist]
About the Author
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The pace of the writing is relentless; it is impossible to relax at any moment of the story. The detailed visual descriptions make you feel as if you are travelling with the protagonist(s). Just as you start to feel that they have seen the worst, a new development makes you sit up with a start.
All in all, every minute spent reading this book is worth it. For enhanced enjoyment, one should either read it on a flight (and therefore, without distractions from the internet) or late at night when everyone else is asleep.
The only downside is that at least for a couple of days after reading this book, the sensitive reader will be scared. Very scared.
Neeraj (who very well deserves his own standalone book) psychology, his schemes, his backstabbing, his unexplained devilry is the best part of the book. Along with that you add the the premise of stolen data, the secret service of 3 countries behind our heroes , you finally have something for which you won't mind sacrificing your sleep. In short, just go for it.
Top international reviews
The protagonist, Deva, the ‘Shaitan,’ seems to have superhuman abilities. He is credible enough that you actually start wondering if all super soldiers are all like that and if it is because of their training. The reader identifies with Deva and shares his fear. The fear element is ever-present and palpable.
There are many characters in the novel that are almost recognizable as based on real-life people. Some are clear parallels, and others perhaps bear an only shadowy resemblance, but it is there.
The story is based on a data theft at NSA. The span of the story is about two days, and a lot happens in that time.
The author builds up the pace by building up an hour-by-hour narrative. Pitted against the protagonist, trying to protect the data scientist and his friend, are a media mogul and his cronies who are chasing them to steal that data, which can destabilize the power balance within and outside the country. Naturally, the Americans are also involved in this chase.
The reader sees a glimpse of the forces vying for supremacy in the most invisible corners of the state.
The book offers some very sophisticated perspectives about the invisible connections and events that shape the geopolitical balance of power. The reader is confronted with the power of the narrative, of shadowy beneficiaries spreading misinformation that can uproot nations.
The reader is introduced to shadow businesses owned by behind the scene power brokers, spyware, and malware introduced insidiously by enemy countries into intelligence systems, data protocols, and monitoring systems. The situations described are very plausible and scary. The reader is forced to confront his own terrifying lack of privacy, and can only take a somewhat dubious comfort in the anonymity afforded because finding information in a mountain of data needs patience, intelligent tools, instincts, and perhaps even serendipity.
The storytelling is sophisticated and is evidently based on extensive research and thought. The characters are vividly fleshed out.
I found some of the characters rather interesting. Praveen is an evil character, utterly black, without any shades of grey. He is craven, obsequious, and lustful. His end is narrated very chillingly. But I found it difficult to concede that as a close associate of the arch-villain, the media mogul, he could be so lacking in intelligence.
The author hints at a sociological problem: that of Sarkari Muslims.
Quote: “And Ameen?” “Kill that bastard! He and his brother Wasim are both Sarkari Mussalmans—Muslims who are more loyal to the government than their own. I had warned Wasim he would repent,” Neeraj said.
I wonder if many Muslims perhaps walk this tightrope, and if there is a correlation between an enforced loyalty ‘to their own’ and their income level. That should prove to be an interesting investigation in itself. It is also interesting that Wasim is familiar with Mahabharat and compares himself with Virat. He even says he is doing his bit for dharma. And then, consoles himself with a Quranic verse.
Abhinav Agarwal’s love of Mahabharat is evident. I found it interesting that it is Neeraj, the media mogul that invokes Mahabharat more often than any other character. “If Rathore is Krishna, then this Shaitan guy is Arjuna… We first eliminate Arjuna, and then we neutralize Krishna,” he says.
Agarwal’s acknowledgment of the Lutyens Durbar is telling.
Quote: “The Delhi Durbar was an eternal whorehouse with pimps, whores, and customers. Rathore was no more than a constable in this whorehouse. He could watch, even choose to participate in the bazaar. But he didn’t have the permission to disrupt the market.
Those who did were replaced. At that moment, JSR knew this was a war he couldn’t win. He had to make a choice. This was not how he had anticipated the meeting would go.”
I also found it interesting that in this game of high stakes, the original player (the data scientist) who initiated the chase had no further say in how the game is played after the data theft. While it is entirely plausible that he cannot retain control of the developments after his first move, I could not get a good sense of whether the data theft was impulsive (perhaps not, because he deliberately subverts the protocols in place) because he has no clear idea of the endgame. His character is probably the least fleshed out.
I don’t know if there are many Indian books in this genre. So as far as I am concerned, it is one of the first of its kind. It is a fantastic first novel. I do hope it will be made into a movie. I am sure it will be a highly entertaining movie.
I can’t wait to read Abhinav Agarwal’s next offering!