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03:02 is a book that I very high expectations for. When I started reading it my expectations dropped a tiny bit, but only a tiny bit. I still had high expectations for it. Which is why, I have to say, I’m sorely disappointed.

You see, the premise of 03:02 is very Science Fiction/Dystopiany. The main character Aadi wakes up at night and he can’t quite tell what woke him. He looks around and realises that there’s been a power outage in his building. He glances at the clock, checks the time and goes back to sleep thinking the power would be back in the morning. He could not be more wrong. It turns out that there’s been a terror attack, something to wipe out the entire country’s communications, electronics, even their vehicles so that the attack may be carried out without detection or resistance and the world we live in might change.

Doesn’t that sound absolutely wonderful? It did to me and when it came up for review I applied in many websites to be considered and waited eagerly for my copy. Oh how I misunderstood the story.

It is certainly a “world has changed” book but it isn’t dystopian. The story started off ok, I wasn’t too impressed but it was intriguing enough for me to keep going and soon I was completely immersed. Upto the hundred page mark. I put the book down reluctantly and went to bed. When I woke up the next day I skipped everything and sat back down with the book and after a few pages in I realised that the book had changed overnight. Somehow, the story had gone from this horrible thing that was happening to how heroic the main lead is.

The author’s handle over the language is good enough but it feels like he was conflicted about how the book should play out. I wish he had gone with the plot instead of the immortalisation of the main lead because the latter just feels awfully like a Salman Khan movie script. Scene after scene is about how everyone, including the army and other important heads look to him (an ordinary NCC boy who quit to take up a desk job) for leadership.

In fact it is so preachy and filled with Gyaan (advice) that I felt like I was back in moral science class. One portion in particular stuck with me, a politician refuses to cooperate but one tiny bit of action and a lecture from our hero and he suddenly makes a speech about how he let power come in the way of humanity and how he is now a reformed man etc etc.

Another aspect was the constant repetition about how “The world we lived in had now changed.” And how “I realised now/I knew now/I understood now”. This repeats every few paragraphs till it felt like the author took the reader to be an idiot. We get it, the world has changed, we get it, he has realised something, the reader is not that dense.

On the upside this wasn’t a completely “men only” story. There was only one female character worth mentioning here and that is a young doctor called Megha, who is strong and capable of defending herself to a reasonable extent. Not to mention how respectful he was to the ladies despite showing the horrors that can be inflicted on women during such attacks. He seems to have researched this (can’t give details because spoilers) topic quite well. Not to mention the plot. I may not have enjoyed the writing but by god the plot kept me interested. I had to now who did it and what we did to stop it or did we stop it at all.

I really thought this book would change the science fiction/ dystopian scene in India. I really did. How disappointing. It feels like someone suddenly told the author to change the story so it could easily be optioned for a movie and he listened to their advice. Or maybe the author overextended himself because those first 100 pages gave me a glimpse of something brilliant to come. Alas, it didn’t deliver.

Recommendation? Read it for the first 100 pages.

Buy on Amazon India or Flipkart

I received a copy from Writersmelon.com in exchange of an honest and unbiased review. You can check them out here.

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