Book Review: The Rataban Betrayal by Stephen Alter

Book: The Rataban Betrayal

Author: Stephen Alter

Plot: Calm and Serene Mussoorie is startled when bullets ricochet through the heart of these silent valleys killing a CIA agent and what follows is a revelation of a huge conspiracy that is threatening to spread chaos by killing one of the most prominent figures of modern world. Set across the Background of Himalayan Valleys, It tells the muffled struggles of Tibetan natives taking refuge across the world and who is fighting daily to get back to their home

Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lost in words

Maybe it is because the author had spent his whole life in India that his writing style strongly reflects one. How?. Well to begin with simplicity in language is not our forte. We believe in the power of adorned, long, twisted and coiled up sentences that are hardened with solid and hard biting words and vocabulary just like the one I have just managed to write. It is usually a war of words and grammar rather than narration and art of storytelling in our books.

The Rataban Betrayal had an amazing and pretty strong story line but unfortunately it got lost in too much description and in the author’s attempt to impart his knowledge on a lot of stuff ranging from mountains, Himalayas, trekking, Mussorie, (a state in which the whole action takes place) and the plight and the struggle of the Tibetan people who are still waiting to return to their homeland.
I will admit that I m both surprised and ashamed at the fact that being an Indian, many of the stuff spoken and pointed out by Stephen Alter in his book was enlightening and pretty much new to me. It’s kind of a recurring theme with us Indians that we need an international perspective to acknowledge and appreciate our own culture and that includes me as well. The book gives you a whole lot of information and perspective of Tibetan Culture and Buddhism.

The problem with the book is that it is way too technical and descriptive. There is too much scene setting than actual events. With so many details and less action it kind of becomes vapid pretty quick. In a 400 page book, when the chunk of action is limited to merely last two chapters, then you should be able to get the picture as to how far the description goes.

If you treat this book as a catalogue or guide to Himalayas and Tibetan culture, then this it can survive much better, but as a thriller it is kind of vapid and boringly descriptive with actual action and event-play almost nil. Language is too brainy and technical and depending upon how you take your book narration you may or may not find it interesting but as for me who like simpler and efficient storytelling, Language was ineffective. It was bad for a fiction but may not be a bad one for nonfiction category