Arnab Ray is better known for his political spoofs under the pen name of The Great Bong. This is his first excursion into novel territory and thriller territory at that. From the first chapter, The Mine sets the tone for what the reader can expect: blood, gore, guts and extreme violence verging on horror. It also seems to have an eye firmly fixed on a cinematic rendition with a red room flashing black lights and a sex and violence combination that ends badly right in the opening pages.
The Mine has a Bengali protagonist, Samar Bose, an ex-spy who has lost his wife, has a missing daughter, a mentally challenged brother and lives on blue pills. He is offered an intriguing job with a dream salary and finds himself deep underground in the Thar Desert to solve the mystery of an ancient shrine which seems to curse everyone who comes in contact with it. He is also offered a group of five co-helpers and the group finds itself trapped and forced to find a way out of a booby trapped apparently inextricable maze. This is terrain that we’ve met in One Amazing Story for example, Chitra Divakaruni’s novel of the trapped looking back at their lives and confessing or repenting to their fellow inmates. The only difference is that Ray’s book is an excursion into evil and revenge that would have the Jacobean playwrights applauding. A pioneering feat for an Indian writer since we haven’t had horror thrillers before.
Ray seems to love plunging into the most gruesome twists and turns of horror – a women is squashed by a falling chunk of roof for example. And of course, the worst is reserved for the end, a practice of the best horror films. What we are expected to believe is that someone is out to punish people for their sins through the excesses of technology and the expenditure of fantastic sums of money but most will be too caught up in the horrors to worry about that. A sermon on the nature of sin is thrown in for good measure: “Makes you wonder if God himself is evil? Or whether what we consider the design of the devil is actually nothing but the will of God?” And of course, like the good Bengali intellectual that he is, Ray throws in references to Dante and divides his plot into three sections entitled: The Beginning, The Middle and The End, with a prologue that sets the stage. He also hints at events that actually happened in India.
If you’re into Hitchcock or that long line of Hollywood slasher films like Saw 11, from which the nerve gas and the underground horrors are borrowed, you might actually like this book and look forward to the movie that is obviously going to be made from it. Ray plots his pitfalls well and the book is short which makes it an engrossing read for those who enjoy being grossed out in the comfort of their sofas, knowing that it can never happen to them. While there are certainly those who will complain that they prefer their reading experiences to be pleasanter, even where thrillers are concerned, and lament that spoofy style which they discovered on Arnab Ray’s blog.
The Mine by Arnab Ray
Published by Tranquebar in India, 2012
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