Stories-within-a-novel is an often-used ploy, but for a first novel, it is a rather daring one, specially since the stories are the novel here, carrying the entire burden of it. Set in different parts of the world, they combine the real world with fantasy, futuristic technology with magic: a database of memories is created to be sold to a world in which memories are lost, a woman turns into a departmental store and humans sprout plants and flowers. An eclectic, interesting but uneven mix; if a couple of stories work, many sag under the weight of a laboured inventiveness. The basic flaw, however, is that the stories don’t connect: there is no central character or consciousness connecting them, nor do they link the anonymous narrators and listeners.
But it is unfair to judge a first novel by what it has not, only right to look at what it has. This one reveals enormous confidence, crafting skill and, above all, promise. One hopes that the writer will soon realise that magic realism is not unbridled imagination (the son of Robert De Niro and a Chinese laundress meets the daughter of Isabella Rosselini and Martin Scorcese!) but an absolute control over it. Understand too, that the global is not necessarily the universal. It would be a pity for young writers to put down the burden of ‘Indianness’ only to pick up the load of ‘globalness’.