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Book Review: Dipika Mukherjee’s Debut Novel "Thunder Demons"

**Race, politics and family history intertwine in Dipika Mukherjee’s debut novel Thunder Demons.** In the dead of night, Colonel S straps explosives to the mistress of a senior Malay minister and presses the detonator. Cold and calculating, his character is perhaps aptly described as both a mad military scientist and devoted fanatic. On behalf of his high-ranking political buddies, he is waging war against Malaysia’s disenfranchised Indian, Bengali and Chinese minorities, and the war is escalating. One part political thriller, one part social drama, [Thunder Demons](http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/events/109254/) is an intricately woven tale of four families inextricably linked by a web of love, loyalty, secrets and betrayal. Drawing on Malaysian folklore and a rich diversity of cultural traditions, author Dipika Mukherjee uses vibrant imagery and brutally honest observation to create a humanistic portrait of a modern nation still coming to grips with its past. Caught between the forces of tradition and globalization, faith and conservatism, autocracy and pluralism, diversity and discrimination, the Malaysia in Mukherjee’s story finds itself in the throes of an Indian protest movement that has prompted Colonel S to continue his work on a lethal and undetectable biological weapon. Under the guise of an innocuous biomaterials project, Colonel S enlists the help of his former graduate student, American Professor Jay Ghosh, who owes Colonel S a blood debt for saving him from a fire when he was a young child. Jay’s return to Malaysia brings him back in touch with his past and Agni, the daughter of his childhood romantic obsession who, plagued by the secrecy surrounding her mother’s death, soon inherits Jay’s unrequited affections. As rumors of Colonel S’s involvement in a murder begin to circulate and Jay’s friendship with him becomes known, Agni’s suspicions are piqued. But will she be in time to stop Colonel S from hitting his next target? Inspired by a recent high-profile murder trial involving an aide to the Malaysian prime minister, Thunder Demons’ topic material is so sensitive that the publisher, to date, has decided not to release the book in Malaysia. However Mukherjee’s goal isn’t to make the illustrious list of black-listed books, but simply to give voice to an issue that hits close to home. “My husband and one of my sons hold Malaysian citizenship, so these issues have affected us personally, especially our eventual decision to leave,” she explains. “We are all ethnically Indian and Bengali, and I felt that I had a voice and I should use it, as too many people living inside Malaysia feel obliged to self-censor their opinions.” Completion of the first draft roughly coincided with Mukherjee’s arrival in Shanghai in 2009. Shortly after touching down in the Pearl of the Orient, she began to organize a small writer’s workshop group, the Shanghai Scribblers, whose members, she says, were instrumental in helping her edit the work in time for its publication in 2011. Mukherjee is now penning her third novel (not the sequel to Thunder Demons, unfortunately), a large portion of which is set in Shanghai. DETAILS Title: Thunder Demons Author: Dipika Mukherjee Publisher: Gyaana Books How much: RMB100 at her [book event](http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/events/109254/) or US$19.95 on Amazon.com
-------------- **Shanghai-based author Dipika Mukherjee will be speaking about her debut novel at the [Shanghai Writers Association](http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/events/109254/) on Saturday, May 19. Afterwards, a panel of writers will discuss some of the political and cultural issues that Thunder Demons addresses. Books will be available for purchase. Supported by the Consulate General of India. Check the [event details here](http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/events/109254/).**

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Or how about taking the "Clancy" path? Afterall, biomaterials and explosives are used.... tossing light at the science/technical tools of politicians (Clauswitz - "War extension of politics") may be a good way to shed light on social-political phenomenon. I can imagine about C4 explosives and espionage comm cipher systems into the literary cocktail. Of shadowy mid-eastern-high-technology for social monitoring. Of submarines. etc. etc.


So, we know the villain - this thinly veiled Colonel - but who's the hero(ine?)? And does the hero have any special fighting techniques?!? Agni maybe learned about prana and kalarikalai? :-) Maybe inherit a specially crafted bundi dagger? :-o
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