#BookReview : Hell! No Saints in Paradise by A. K. Asif
Title: Hell! No Saints in Paradise
Genre: Fiction- Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Collins
Author: A. K. Asif
2050, New York. In the aftermath of a gruelling spiritual cleansing quest, Ismael, A Pakistani-American student, enters into an alliance with otherworldly beings who send him on a perilous journey of self-discovery. A non-believer, Ismael must return to Pakistan, now in the grip of a brutal fundamentalist government, and gain the trust of his estranged father, a prominent extremist in the Caliphate. To accomplish this, he must pose as a true believer. Will her survive long enough to infiltrate his father’s inner sanctum and complete his mission?
Hell! No Saints in Paradise is both biting satire and allegory that takes urban fantasy to dizzying heights.
In my quest to read more books, this year I decided to read something different as compared to the usual stuff that I read. And this book “Hell! No Saints in Paradise” didn’t disappoint me. Ismael is Pakistani, now studying in America. As a part of his Ph.D research, he decides to find out the truth about the existence of heaven and hell. Being brought up by a father who is a staunch Muslim, from his childhood Ismael is warned about the horrors of hell and is told about the many wonderful things that await in paradise. He meets a girl on whose advice he decides to go for spiritual cleansing with Ayahuasca to clear his thoughts and to find answers to his questions.
But that changes the course of his life. Guided by spiritual beings, he is given a mission to accomplish for which he travels to Pakistan on the pretext of meeting his father. The Pakistan that the author paints in the story is quite different from the one that exists today. Ismael is in for a shock. Its not just the surroundings that have changed, but the people as well. Fed with their own interpretation of religious texts and the fundamentalist government, people are ready to kill others for the sake of going to heaven. Ismael is shocked when his father’s driver almost kills him, when children play along with jihadi vests, when a game of cricket is nothing but bloodshed! But somehow he manages to keep himself sane! He tries to figure out the task that is assigned to him and finds out ways to succeed in his mission. But it is hard to succeed in something that you don’t know much about. But will he succeed?
This book is a fast paced read. Though I was initially uncertain about reading a book as such, reading this book was an interesting exercise. The authors imagination and the power of his words to paint a picture of heaven and hell while making a mockery of it is on point. The book underlines how the future could turn out to be if we interpreted religious texts in our own way. Ismael’s is a character that we could all relate. The quest for questioning something that we’ve always been told, the rebel that goes away to a different country, the weaknesses and distractions that we face while we are on our way to achieve something, the fear and confusion – we can always find a little bit of ourselves in Ismael. One of the good things about the book is that it gives insights about Islam.
When you begin reading this book, there will be questions but those questions will have answers as the book progresses. Written in simple English, it is easy to understand. If you are willing to read something that is not usual fiction, then this is a book you must read.
My rating : 4/5