The ‘About the Author’ column in the book cover made me take up and read this book, and the story is as insanely hilarious as the author’s description of himself, if not more. This ranks way above crazy, and makes for one fabulously engaging read that thrives on allegories.
Saad Hossain’s Escape From Baghdad! has everything you’ve already seen in American Gulf War movies before, but in this book the pov offered is from the party that’s been invaded. That’s a fresh perspective, and so far I have read zilch about their side of things. Blend it with history, fantasy, mythology and satire, and it becomes one smooth genre-hopping story with a breakneck-paced narrative. Two friends, an Economics professor and a killer, now held captive one of the area’s ill-famed torturers, and are unable to decide what to do with him. While they continue to contemplate whether to kill him or sell him, the torturer chalks out a different plan. He has in his possession a map that leads to mad amount of gold, which he agrees to trade with his captors for his life. Agree they do, and off the three set out on a journey that shall lead them to a shiny destination. And as the usual template follows, the journey is the real story.
It’s in this adventure where they encounter some of the best characters in the book, including a wild librarian of an underground library, a few American soldiers looking to make quick money, a few mad scientists and an immortal group of witches belonging to an ancient religious sect. The characters are superbly sketched. The professor-killer duo reminded me of The Devotion Of Suspect X, but the connection was unwarranted. The characters have very little in common.
Though there were a few instances where I just could not digest what’s written, I read on furiously, awe-struck by the author’s vision. It’s one of those few instances where one can never really connect with the character(s) but still reads on to not miss the greater plot. And here the greater plot is such a gem.
The peril, despair, absurdity and mostly the anger that one would definitely be subjected to in a warzone is at the core of this book. There are a few heartbreaking situations, but the heavy emotions are soon dissolved into laughter thanks to all the buffoonery. And the action is drool-worthy. It’s not being hailed as the Catch-22 of The Gulf War for no reason. That last line of the Epilogue just nails it!
If Tarantino ever made a film on Gulf War, this is one definite book he’ll refer for most part, if not all. One madcap book, and one promising, fearless author to look forward to. Highly recommended.
Overall Rating : 5/5
Pre-order now. Escape From Baghdad! India release on September 22nd.