Ben Antao's : Blood & Nemesis  - a book review by Michelle Ponto

 [When Michelle Ponto, a young Canadian writer, is not busy writing novels, short stories and screenplays, she works as a freelance journalist for a number of print and online publications across Canada, the United States and Europe. In addition to a screenplay currently in production, Michelle has a short story appearing in the science fiction anthology, New Wave of Speculative Fiction, this September.]

When I first picked up Blood & Nemesis, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. I’m not a big fan of historical stories, but once I was into the novel, I was happy to learn the author didn’t focus on the war —nor did he over-emphasize the history. Instead, it was the people and the political situation that drove the action forward and gave the story its energy.

At first glance, with its dark cover and large size, the novel gives off an intimidating and serious impression. Ben Antao’s writing style, however, is just the opposite. It’s down to earth, entertaining, and action orientated. By the end of the first chapter, I was already hooked into the characters and their lives. Ben has a knack of weaving in the history and political problems of the time into the lives of his characters without having to give the reader a history lesson. And his skill as a travel writer definitely shines. I’ve never been to Goa, but through his description, I could see, hear, and smell every room, bus ride and card game.

The most colourful scenes in the novel are the ones with Kamala, the concubine. In every scene, Ben has blended the perfect amount of description and emotional detail. Ironically, even though she’s not the main character, she’s one of the more complex ones. As a reader, you are instantly drawn to her, her situation, and how she used her power to do what she needed to do. She’s a “real” woman -- emotional, logical, manipulative, and a survivor. With the male characters being the less complicated “go-out-and-get-em” types, her womanly perspective made an interesting contrast to their political views, and added a third dimension to the story.

It only takes a quick search on the internet to find out what happened to the Goan Freedom Fighters, but to find out what happened to Kamala, Santan, and Jovino, the main characters of the novel, one has to continue reading. It is only then that the reader can discover how the characters’ decisions shaped their destinies.

Michelle Ponto
September 12, 2005


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