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The Calcutta Chromosome [Hardcover]

3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Mass Market Paperback
[...]There was a lilting rhythm to this book that had a familiar resonation.
The turn of the phrase, the dialog, the manner of story telling was very
reminiscent of The
Moors Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie a book I have read but not reviewed
here yet. I don't want to make broad sweeping stereotypes regarding the
an Indian style, but I will at the minimum note in passing a similarity
between this and the one book I have read by Rushdie. </p>

Having said that I found this in the end an unsatisfying book. It was
a book of many things, science fiction, a medical history of malaria,
and a spiritual explanation of transmigration of the soul. I found it
a bit slow in starting up, once going my interest was peaked regarding
the mystery of the discovery of malaria and the hidden truth behind it,
however my main disappointment was that the resolution to the mystery
and the ending itself were poorly wrought. Barely even explained, unclearly
described I was left scratching my head with a "huh?" </p>

I don't know if I would recommend this book, I would state the caveats
and let you make your own choice.</p>
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4.0 out of 5 stars An fun book with some frustrating flaws Dec 2 2001
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The Calcutta Chromosome was fun, and I don't at all regret buying the book. I enjoyed the twisty, wandering, plot and its labyrinthine internal connections. I enjoyed the scenery, both the futuristic New York and its wonderful evocation of Calcutta. I liked many of the characters and enjoyed their encounters and dilemmas. I enjoyed the bits of medical history. I enjoyed much of the language. I REALLY enjoyed reading a book where, for once, I did not have to wince at words misused or misspelled.
However, for all the blurb evocations, this is no Borges, nor Pynchon. I see why the comparisons were drawn, but there are some major plot and even ... call them philosophical... flaws that drag The Calcutta Chromosome back from a really good book to a fun read on the 'plane.
Basically, there is a vast and bizarre conspiracy, which, while entertaining, is founded on mushy, ill thought-out motives. There is an attempt to evoke an east/west - mysticism/logic thing, but it collapses under its own inconsistencies to reveal a balding plot device wearing a toupee of picturesque Oriental mystics.
Finally, there is quite a bit of pseudo-scientific and technological hand waving. This will bother some more than others. The point that technology can be like magic is relevant, and in places I can forgive the more nonsensical bits as contributing to a good story. There are other incidents, particularly the absurdly retrieved e-mail, which could have been tied into other themes in the story but weren't. Instead, I was left with the impression that Ghosh wrote himself into a bit of a corner and couldn't be bothered to take some more plausible method of getting himself out.
Sit back, fit together the edge pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, admire the pretty picture, and try not to be disappointed if you find a few of the middle pieces missing.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Overstuffed Fare Oct. 31 2001
By A. Ross
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This whirling mix of science fiction, medical thriller, satire, historical fiction, and supernatural is both dazzling and ultimately disappointingly confusing. Indeed, it's one of the few books I've come across that essentially requires two readings to approach comprehension. Like myself, the average reader is likely to enjoy the compelling atmosphere and swerving plot Ghosh serves up-but not enough to go back a second time to decipher exactly what was going on throughout it all. Especially after an altogether infuriating ending that has one checking to make sure the last 20 pages didn't fall out of the book!
The story is so convoluted that summarizing it is tricky at best. We start in Manhattan of the not too distant future, where computers sort through endless data streams, requiring human attention only when something does not compute. Through a clue generated by his terminal, a computer technician gets immersed in the mysterious disappearance of an Indian colleague of his in Calcutta back in 1995. The Indian vanished while on trying to track down the truth behind Ronald Ross's discovery of the cure for malaria back in 1902. It seems the real-life Ross wasn't trained in medicine, yet his independent research led to a Nobel prize. Ghosh offers the explanation of shadowy cabal who seek to use the malaria virus in their schemes to transfer personality and thus gain immortality. It's a neat concept but becomes unnecessarily complicated and ultimately lost in the mishmash of subtexts on identity, empire, and culture-not to mention the labyrinthine structure of the telling. To Ghosh's credit, the descriptions of rundown future Manhattan, the teeming life of contemporary Calcutta, and turn of the century colonial India are all first rate. It's just a shame that the complicated narrative, with multiple time frames and flashbacks never manages to coalesce into a worthwhile payoff.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Too complicated for me... May 26 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The Calcutta Chromosome tries to marry an engaging plot with IT and medical science and, as such, it compares to Michel Houellebecq’s masterpiece, the ‘Particules élémentaires’. ...the Calcutta Chromosome is a well-written book, with a fascinating premise.
The central story line initially follows an obscure 1902 Nobel-prize winner of Medicine, Ronald Ross, who achieved major breakthroughs in malaria research he did in India. However, after reading Ross’s biography ...Amitav Ghosh puts some pertinent question marks behind Ross’s achievements.
Ghosh argues that Ronald Ross was a man of rather mediocre abilities. Until he started doing his malaria research, Ross had unsuccessfully pursued a literary career, being an ungifted, uninspired and unsuccessful poet and novelist. In a bizarre career switch, Ross started doing medical research in India. Yet, entirely on his own, he revolutionized our knowledge on malaria – by concluding his solitary research in the ridiculously short time-span of just three years.
This tale is told engagingly by Amitav Ghosh. To explain Ross’s success, Ghosh suggests the Ross was unknowingly manipulated by a mysterious gang of Indian beggar thugs, led by an old beggar queen invested with special powers.
But when the novel has reached this stage, somewhere halfway, Ghosh has clearly lost control over the storyline. There are sustained, but contorted and far-fetched attempts to link Ross’s adventures with New Yorkers living in a not-too-distant 21st century. To bridge this 100-year or so time gap, the story wildly jumps through space and time, leading the reader, in a haphazard fashion, to Egyptian villages, Finnish spiritists, Indian novelists and endless and utterly boring monologues. I flipped quickly through the last 90 pages to see where the novel would end. Unfortunately, nowhere.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars cross-cultural
I found the writing style very similar to other novels written by writers from India, a complex of characters, a hint of the mysterious, and a level of character interactions that... Read more
Published on July 29 2012 by maniq2
2.0 out of 5 stars I do not understnd the end
I loved the images the book evoked .I loved reading about the British in India and how they would behave and use euphemisms about the natives its so like how my mother and father... Read more
Published on Dec 25 2001 by Cheyanne
3.0 out of 5 stars Nicely written, pointless story
I read this book on a plane flight from India to the US. The story moves forward briskly and held my interest, so I'd definitely recommend the book to anyone who likes mysteries,... Read more
Published on July 12 2001
3.0 out of 5 stars At the end you very probably will say Huu! What ?
The book is fun to read undoubtedly. But the "conspiracy theory" seems to lack a clear motive. Read more
Published on June 23 2001 by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars what was that?
The style of writing and the format were impressive. Murugan's character was well etched out and the author style of writing comes across in Murugans lines. Read more
Published on June 6 2001 by merril
5.0 out of 5 stars Wait--let me read that again. . .
Amitav Ghosh is a bright man, a very bright man. A bright man with a good imagination and a sure touch with plot development. Read more
Published on March 9 2001 by Carol Mathis
5.0 out of 5 stars Ghosh is Great
I met and introduced Ghosh at my university last year. Got to go to dinner with him and other faculty at Butler University. His work never disappoints me. Read more
Published on Feb. 8 2001 by Aliya Chaplin
4.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting book
This is one of the most fascinating books that I have read. Although the plot is sometimes abstruse, the story is almost always taut. Read more
Published on Sept. 27 2000 by Saurabh Chatterjee
3.0 out of 5 stars A flawed gem
Amitav Ghosh's prose is beautiful and engaging, and so are his descriptions of India, past and present. Read more
Published on July 13 2000 by hjorvar
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