Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Book Review: 'Mock My Words' by Chandra Shekhar

Mock My Words by Chandra  Shekhar

'Tonight nice moon, so will not dark’ 

Author Chandra Shekar entered the literary realm with this debut novel MOCK MY WORDS after studying Artificial Intelligence, being involved in developing technology for video surveillance, facial recognition and self-driving vehicles, and penning science journalism. In addition to his impressive and somewhat piebald career, Chandra has the gift of eloquent prose that he uses to miscegenate drama, comedy, romance and techno-thriller concepts with aplomb: his book’s subtitle states that well!

One of the many aspects of this excellent novel is Chandra’s ability to sculpt characters that are at once unique while becoming near recognizable as people we have encountered. With a few words he establishes the image and personality of his primary character, David, as the story opens: “English, bloody English! Why did I ever leave China?” growled David Tan as he carefully wrote on the whiteboard: “What is good writing?” It was exactly 8 a.m. on the first day of his first quarter at John Steinbeck University. David had got to the classroom at 7:30 and was waiting, with a mix of eagerness and dread, for his class to arrive…’ And from this initial event the suspense builds as the fascinating story unfolds. 

The plot is condensed in the author’s synopsis: ‘Chinese literary genius David Tan writes with style, wit, and elegance. His speech, however, is awkward, halting, and hilariously ungrammatical. When he joins the Steinbeck University's prestigious writing faculty in California, his students scorn him and his colleagues snub him. David craves support from his strong-willed American wife Laura, but she is too busy battling a sinister high-tech conspiracy at work to care about a husband she has stopped loving. His only joy comes from helping idealistic Chinese-American student Melissa develop a device that can get the bedridden back on their feet -- until, inexplicably, she too gives him the cold shoulder...David's career and marriage are collapsing, Laura faces dismissal or worse, and Melissa's device seems doomed to flop. Will fortune intervene?’

To appreciate the many levels of Chandra’s skills – as expected, his keen appreciation for technology, his insights into cultural behaviors and the biases that occur, and the appreciation of linguistic variations – simply begin reading this book and the task becomes infectious. Chandra Shekar is an important new voice in literature. Refreshing and Highly Recommended. 

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.