Chosen Spirits by Samit Basu: Book Review

Samit Basu weaves the ‘Sci-fi’ element in a futuristic fiction with a political undertone in his latest book, ‘Chosen Spirits’.

Chosen Spirits by Samit Basu
Publisher: S&S India, 239 pages

The book is about Joey, her life set in a futuristic media establishment in New Delhi, in an altered landscape after the CAA protests and the high pollution levels. This future is about people watching some sort of live streaming of other people known as Flowstars acting in Flowcos.

People have ‘smartatts’ tattooed on their wrists called ‘Narad’. This device reminded me of ‘Baymax’ from Big Hero 6, only if it was as huge and adorable and not just a tattoo. Nevertheless it is as adamant in keeping the emotional well-being of the person intact. In this not too distant future, Joey’s work as a ‘Reality Controller’ is to manage strings around her ex-partner and present Flowstar Indi.

Rudra is the second most prominent character in the story; he is the estranged younger son of a super-rich family who joins Joey in the Flowco after his father’s funeral. This funeral and the reference to Joey’s family bring out the superficiality of the urban rich living in the metropolitan in this time.

Delhi is given a futuristic atmosphere quite similar to the present-day lifestyle – people with anti-smog masks. Nehru Place is transformed into Cyber Bazar, which it is to a great extent even today, as people rush to buy mobile handsets and other electronic gadgets from this cheap wholesale hub of electronic devices. Though in the book, these shops are run more like underground racketeering.  

“That’s just Delhi,’ her mother says. ‘People treat it as a stop on their journeys to somewhere better. Or they get stuck, and don’t know how to leave.’

The language and the setting is very urbane high class, hence the names given to the protagonists – Joey for Bijoyini Roy and Indi for Indrajith Mathew.

This estranged couple and now colleagues work towards content creation for live streaming and the entire story revolves around it. The book tries to bring out the politics involved in media management, top-notch player exploiting the newcomers, a hint of nepotism, and the race for grabbing more eyeballs.

Also, there is a dab of racial discrimination with Jin Young, the Hindi-speaking Korean, who grew up in Lajpat Nagar and you get a bit of K-pop and K-drama. Of course, as the trends go, we are sure to be swept off by K-drama in the future. It is refreshing to read Jin Young, a lesser explored character in Indian fiction.   

There are many loose ends like E-Klav a culture-terrorist, an activist joining the flow and confusion on who controls the Flowco. Another angle sets in as house-helps double-up as spies. But then many characters and details are built-in to just create the atmosphere and not to take the story forward.

After a scandal at Flowco, Indi wants to leave India for a more lucrative opportunity in the west but Joey is reluctant to be part of something that is just an Indian version of the same game.

“Is this all just some upper-class people in a digital club networking and politicking and letting off some steam while building career-expanding alliances, or a resistance that will one day change the world?”

I like the fact that Samit Basu kept the plot simple. The characters aren’t complex and the story revolves within a set perimeter. Perhaps a sequel is on its way, the reason why the story just stays where it does in this book.

I received this book as part of the Blogchatter Book Review Program in exchange of an honest review.

You can place your order for ‘Chosen Spirits’ at Amazon.in

Blurb

She’d decided, that night, that she wouldn’t leave. That she would stay in India, in Delhi, and belong as hard as she could.

Joey is a Reality Controller, in charge of the livestream of a charismatic and problematic celebrity in smog-choked, water-short, ever-transforming Delhi – a city on the brink of revolution, under the shadow of multiple realities and catastrophes – at the end of the 2020s.
 
When Joey impulsively rescues a childhood friend, Rudra, from his new-elite family and the comfortable, horrific life they have chosen for him, she sets into motion a chain of events — a company takeover, a sex scandal, a series of betrayals — that disintegrates not just their public and private selves, but the invisible walls that divide the city around them.
 
To find the lives they need, Joey and Rudra must reckon with people and forces beyond their understanding, in a world where trust is impossible, popularity is conformity, and every wall has eyes.

About the Author

Samit Basu is an Indian novelist, film director and screenwriter.

In books, Samit is best known for his fantasy and science fiction work. His first novel was ‘The Simoqin Prophecies’ published by Penguin India in 2003. The other books in the trilogy are ‘The Manticore’s Secret’ and ‘The Unwaba Revelations’.

Samit has also authored ‘Turbulence’ and ‘Resistance’.  Turbulence was published in the UK in 2012 and in the US in 2013 to rave reviews. It won Wired‘s Goldenbot Award as one of the books of 2012 and was superheronovels.com’s Book of the Year for 2013. Its sequel, Resistance, was published in the UK/US in 2014.

Samit also writes for younger readers: other works include the Adventures of Stoob series and Terror on the Titanic, a YA historical fantasy. He’s also published short stories for adults and younger readers in Indian and international anthologies, and has been a columnist and essayist in several leading Indian and international publications.

Samit also works as a film director and screenwriter. His debut film, House Arrest, was released as part of Netflix’s International Originals in 2019, and was one of Netflix’s top 5 most viewed Indian films that year. He wrote the film and co-directed it with Shashanka Ghosh. 

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