The Mahabharata Secret: The Alexander Quest by Christopher C Doyle is an action-packed story that combines history, microbiology & genetics, mythology, ancient languages and contemporary technology. In short a very heady cocktail!
The story is based on a very well known incident from the Mahabharata, the Samudramanthan and also on the story of Alexander III’s search for ‘the secret of the gods’. The plot is well defined and each of the connection between the two seemingly disjoint stories is perfectly explained.
The protagonist of the book, Vijay Singh, works for the Intelligence Bureau in Delhi. He and his colleagues unwittingly fall target to an invisible enemy, the Order. The tale begins when Alice Turner, an archaeologist, is working at a site in Greece. She and her team are trying to find the whereabouts of the tomb of Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great. They find an ivory cube in a chamber along with the tomb. Alice flees for her life when she witnesses the death of her co-workers and realizes that she too is being hunted. She leaves Greece and comes to Jaungarh, near Delhi, India to Vijay’s fort to seek protection.
In the meanwhile, the IB has come across a lab in Delhi where it discovers unexplained corpses. Investigation leads them to conclude that clinical trials were being conducted on human subjects.
The book spans a variety of locations and time periods. The maps provided in the book are always handy to provide a clear visual of the path Alexander took when he travelled to find ‘the secret of the gods’.
The reasoning for every incident is properly researched and well thought through. The book jogs your imagination and takes you to a different world. The reader must keep a very open mind while reading the books as it explores the mythological events in a perspective different from the conventionally accepted one.
The book is immensely engaging. However, in some places, you may lose track of the events due to frequent changes of scenes or periods. There are a variety of concepts in the subject of microbiology and genetics. These may be difficult to understand from a layman’s point of view, though they are all explained at the end of the book. However, it would have been much easier if I was directed to an appendix or a page number where I could read more information e.g. The Venus Phenomenon (for more information, read page 353).
My favorite part of the book is where the verses on the cube or in the Adi-parva are translated. It was great fun to try and solve the riddles and then watch Vijay and his friends solve them. The interpretation of Samudramanthan in the verses in the Adi-parva is intriguing as it is slightly different from the conventional meaning we learnt as kids.
Also, it would help if the entire story of Samudramanthan was also documented in the book. Not everyone who read this book is going to be lucky to have a grandma they could turn to know the whole story.
Other than that, I just could not keep the book down and later had a heavy head with all the thinking as I tried to think like the author. 🙂 In the author’s note Christopher Doyle has mentioned that this is the first book of a series. So for all the readers who may not have gotten answers to their questions, Doyle promises to answer them in the forthcoming books.
All in all, a great read, particularly if you like mysteries and solving puzzles. Not your kind of book if you love light reading. For me, I am looking forward to the next in the series.