Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Star Called Lucky by Bapsy Jain


Title: A Star Called Lucky
Author: Bapsy Jain
Publisher: Vook, Inc.
Rating: WORTHY!


DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new book is often enough reward aplenty!

Erratum:
p49 "…before you insinuate me…" should be "…before you implicate me…"
p58 "Chater 4" should be "Chapter 4"

This novel is a sequel to Lucky Everyday which I have to say up front I have not read. It's yet another novel where I came into it unaware that it was a sequel either through my own inattention/forgetfulness or through poor descriptive prose in the novel's blurb, but as it happens, it seems that didn't require that you have to have read volume one in order to read this one.

The novel begins with about twelve pages of description titled "The Players" - all of which I skipped. I don’t do prologues of any kind and if the author is not up to incorporating these info-dumps into the text and in a much less intrusive manner, I'm not up to reading page after page of character descriptions. That just struck me as weird.

In addition to his, the typeface in my Adobe Digital Editions version was also not a pleasant one to read. All the lower case i's looked like number 1's. The word 'but' looked weird and made me keep thinking of 'butt' because of the way the 'u' and the 't' looked so similar at the peaks and seemed to run into each other! There were other weird-looking words. For example, 'home' looked like 'hotne', 'some' looks like 'sorne', and so on That's a relatively minor concern, but it does impact the reading experience.

The story is about Lucky Boyce, an employee of the department of corrections who is a shameless advocate of yoga as the solution to all our ills. I've done yoga and got nothing from it. It didn’t strike me as being as effective 9or anywhere near as much fun!) as pursuing your favorite sport, or as simply jogging or running a treadmill or something, but that's a personal preference.

This story began with Lucky visiting a prison where she acts as a yoga instructor, a position which has become increasingly threatened lately. Why it began this way, I don’t know. It could have begun equally well a few pages later where she boards the subway to ride downtown to her office, or later still when a politician comes to visit her. It’s not altogether clear what she does at work (she's an accountant) when she eventually gets there, either!

Lucky is very adept with her computer and a people-tracking application called 'Bloodhound' which can be employed to find someone via facial recognition, and which also incorporates a host of database and surveillance camera information to dig-up everything about the subject, but how fast she finds this stuff and how much she finds seemed rather improbable. Yes, if you had access to government records and a lot of time, I'm sure you could find a lot, but to pull down detailed data in quite literally a minute or two was too big of a stretch to me.

The author is wrong in claiming that the 1918 flu outbreak was the first epidemic. I think she's confused between the terms epidemic and pandemic, but even so, the first pandemic we’ve recorded wasn't in 1918 - it was at the end of the nineteenth century. The 1918 pandemic was virulent and deadly, however. Flu is nothing to sniff at!

A politician who's apparently obsessed with establishing universal health-care and purveying life-prolonging medicine to everyone adopts her as his side-kick in his quest to investigate some lama dude in India, never mind that lamas are Tibetan! In India he would be known as a guru. No explanation is given for why Lucky should be the one to go on this quest rather than some FBI agents. Yes, she's Indian, but there are doubtlessly FBI personnel who are Indian, too, so why her? Well, for no other reason than that the story is about her. It wasn't convincing.

The deal, supposedly, is that this guy, Lobsang, has access to a fungus called an 'ice mushroom' which supposedly confers long life upon those who are treated with it, evidently by means of boosting the immune system to counteract pretty much every known disease and ailment. Lucky is evidently supposed to get her hands on this mushroom so its properties can be duplicated. How a politician has the authority to walk into a corrections office and 'head-hunt' a government employee, tasking her with traveling internationally in pursuit of something that's well outside of her job description (as well as doubling her salary to boot) is another unexplained mystery here.

I read this to just over fifty percent of the way through, and quite literally nothing happened. It was nothing more than - pretty much - a dear diary of Lucky's every-day activities! Trust me, her life is no more eventful or entertaining than is mine, or any account, or any regular person's every-day activities. I don’t read novels to read about people who are just like me! I read for entertainment and for a chance to get outside of my life and into someone else's!

If you're going to give me 'me' in your novel, then at least change the world around! Please add some sci-fi or fantasy, or make something thrilling or out-of-the-ordinary happen! Please don't detail your doing of laundry, or cooking, or your issue with your browser, or your uneventful interactions in the coffee bar or with your every-day ordinary friends. Why would I want to get into someone else's life if hers is essentially no different from mine? I wouldn’t. I don’t.

One really absurd thing which Lucky does is to leave her computer with a sixteen-year-old to fix a problem. It doesn’t matter if it’s her own computer or the government's. Either way something is seriously wrong here. If it's her own, she should neither be using it for, nor allowed to use it for government work, and if it isn’t, then she's clueless. The only 'malfunction' it appears to have is that her browser defaults to Hulu as the home page even when she changes the page - but we’re told that Lucky doesn't know how to set the browser default page, so this made no sense at all!

It made even less sense that she would turn it over to a sixteen-year-old hacker when her own IT department at work should deal with this issue. It made less sense still that she should turn over a computer to someone who's a known hacker and who isn't even remotely authorized to access her government computer containing government data and the Bloodhound application. Lucky is either profoundly stupid, or she's appallingly gullible and ignorant. Either way I don’t like her, and she should be fired for being so utterly irresponsible. And this is the dumb-ass they want to send on an important mission? Sheesh!

Despite having issues with this out-of-the-blue assignment to India, I at least wanted Lucky to actually get on the airplane and go, but she never did (not to the half-way point anyway). I became so tired of nothing going on that, curious as I might be about this oddball guy in India with his purported fountain-of-youth mushroom, I couldn’t stand to read any more. I couldn't bear the thought of wading through mondo mundane to get to what might have been extraordinary, but for which I had no guarantee, and nothing to imbue me with any faith that it would be any better than the fifty percent I’d already read. Life is too short for rambling stories which go nowhere when there are other enticing and seductive stories inviting me to sample their charms instead.


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