It was really good to read Arvind ji's review of the collection Professor Monkey. I think it is very important to carry on a dialogue on the creative work produced by the members of this group. This provides feedback to the writer and at the same time, also initiates discussion on what we would like to see in Indian sf stories.
Arvind ji has astutely pointed out 4 important qualities of the stories:
Indianness of setting,
mystery element, and
the healthy variety of topics from science.
I must confess here that I have had the opportunity of reading only the first 4 stories of this promising collection. However, based on that, I can say that for me the most striking feature was the bringing together of two genres of writing -- detectice fiction and sf. All the stories I read have police officials involved in solving a case and "Naadan Mujrim" and "Car ka Chakkar" are titles that hint at mystery stories rather than sf. I must say that Zeashan ji has blended the two genres expertly and with a very pleasantly surprising effect. The title story, "Professor Monkey" brought up several issues ranging from ecology, cruelty to animals, and the possibility of transfering one's intelligence and memory to another brain. At the same time, it extrapolates on the age-old question that has baffled humans -- if animals could speak, what would they say? Further, the writing style is quite captivating as the stories are fast paced and have a sense of immediacy, and the reader is only left wishing for more detail.
If there is any element of dissatisfaction, it is with the very first story, "Nadaan Mujrim," where although the plot is sound, I could not help feeling that the character of Aarti as the abused step-daughter was somewhat of a convenient stereotype, a bit fairy tale-ish.
Finally, for someone like me who is very new to Hindi sf, it is a great privilege come across this collection and I avidly look forward to reading the rest of the stories.
Review by Reema Sarwal,