By Jan Lars Jensen
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780151004546, 336pp.)
Publication Date: July 1999
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Jan Lars Jensen weaves a magical, mythical narrative with a modern sensibility, present-future technology, and a dark humor strongly reminiscent of Terry Gilliam's Brazil and Time Bandits. Two quarreling friends travel across India together, following their very different destinies. Along the way, young Rakesh and the Royal Engineer, Vasant, encounter the giant god of wood, Jagannath, who carves a swath of destruction; the Pragmatic Monks, who live in a carved-out mountain and perform miracles of meditation; demon cranes, who reduce life to counting; battles where the weapons are spices; and numerous other wonders. This cinematic Sinbad dreamscape, filled with animate machines, airships of silk, and legends brought to life, evokes an ancient time but also points a finger at our modern age. Jensen's prose fascinates, amuses, and haunts as he presents vivid scenes of India and in the process examines Hinduism, Buddhism, intolerance, and the awful power of faith.