The Ruby Iyer Diaries
The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer is supposed to be dystopian fiction set in a Mumbai from the near future. As I mentioned at the start, the idea of an Indian view of a dystopian world is what caught by attention. The book is supposed to be a part of larger Ruby Iyer series of which one book is out and two prequels dwellings upon the backgrounds of the two protagonists – Ruby and Vikram Roy. Ideally I should have picked up ‘Many Lives of Ruby Iyer’. But I happen to be a member of this group ‘The Book Club’ that carries out book tours and it so happened ‘The Ruby Diaries’ was the one offered for reviews and so I ended up picking that one up. The book as such is a very short one – running to just around 10,000 pages and is not much of a story seen on a standalone basis. It is more of a companion volume to the Ruby Series the way ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to find them’ and ‘Quidditch through the Ages’ are supporting volumes for Harry Potter fans and not much of stories in themselves.
Coming to the book itself, it does not do a complete Oliver Twist starting off with the time of her birth. It deals mostly with the five years prior to the events in the main series, touching upon the key turning points in Ruby’s life that have probably helped shape her character. Though it is titled Ruby Diaries, somehow I felt the book did not feel like a real diary - it did not have that raw unstructured outpouring of emotions like in a diary. The writing actually felt too refined and reflective. Talking of the writing, I must say I found the language and flow of narrative to be excellent as one would come to expect from an author who has been in the field of writing. One interesting thing I noticed was that the entire story was told in present tense, which is a very challenging tense to maintain through 10,000 words and I must say she has done a commendable job at that.
My overall feeling about the book is quite ambivalent. In my opinion, the book is something fans of the main series may be able to enjoy. But it does not really do much to draw the new reader in. There is not much of a plot or conflict as such in the story to hold the reader’s attention till the end. So the author has to wholly depend upon her narrative skills to maintain interest. The narrative as I mentioned earlier is very good but it is not one of those crazily humorous ones that has you rolling on the floor all the time or a dreamy poetic one that sets you off into raptures or so filled with angst that you would make the pages of the book go all soggy with your tears. As a speculative fiction buff, it is usually the new worlds created by authors that attracts me more than the characters. So an ideal teaser to draw me in would focus on the world. Ruby Iyer diaries however gives hardly any clue as to how the world in the story is different from our own. It reads more like an account set in contemporary times giving a glimpse into the life of typical teenager growing in up in one of those sophisticated upper class families.
I feel one can’t say much from reading this book alone except that the author has a good easy to read style, strong command over language, and does descriptions really well. ‘Many Lives of Ruby Iyer’ I guess is the real thing. Maybe I will pick that up one of the days.