Monday, May 29, 2017

Book Review of "Dark Matter - by Blake Crouch"

"Dark Matter" by Blake Crouch feels like the book equivalent of a sure-shot, crowd-pleasing Marvel superhero movie. This isn't necessarily a bad thing mind you. The book is fast paced, action packed and entertaining. It falls under the category of "Science Fiction" - though I would say it is less "science" and more "fiction".

The premise of the book is based on the fairly well-known multiverse theory. So even though the science becomes outlandish after a while, the core of the story is good enough to pull it through. As for the characters, there is an underdog, easy-to-root-for protagonist, his love interest and a well defined crisp antagonist, completing the holy trinity that make a like-able story. And even with these basic ingredients, the book as a whole actually works ! It works as a perfect weekend read, it works as a perfectly adequate mindless thriller/action story, without getting too deep or philosophical.

Overall, a definite 4/5 from me. Fun and fast story without pretensions.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Book Review of "India Unbound - by Gurcharan Das"

"India Unbound" by Gurcharan Das is definitely an informative and eye-opening read for someone interested in understanding how the economic landscape of contemporary India came about, why and how the 1991 financial reforms matter.

Gurcharan Das writes with enthusiasm and verve, his passion for classic liberalism, his arguments for minimal government intervention and the detailed point-by-point analysis of 1991 financial reforms is fascinating to read. The incalculable and irreversible harm that was done by extreme socialist policies is captured very well in a chapter called "The Lost Generation". I think every working class Indian needs to read that.

But this book is by no means perfect. For one, it glosses over and sometimes conveniently skips the political & social upheavals that we as a nation were going through that made economic development difficult. Two, the writer prefers to demonize socialism and state-run industrialism fervently but that system did give us some semblance of economic backbone and it is unfair to completely disregard that.

The book explains using real life examples why promoting monopolistic public sector and discouraging private enterprise and discouraging competition in general was bad for literally every single Indian - most importantly the population below poverty line. We preferred socialism over capitalism thinking that it will help the population below poverty line but state-controlled socialistic policies only introduced more controls, more corruption and kept poor people poor. The book points out that what finally seems to have helped (at least based on the evidence of last 25 years) is opening up of the economy, allowing foreign investment and recognizing the importance of investing in education.

In the end, I have mixed feelings about India Unbound.
Is it a must read ? Definitely yes.
Is it an analytical and backed-by-evidence dissection of the Indian economic scene ? Definitely no. Is the writing heartfelt, passionate and sweeps you over ? Yes. But is the book objective and encompasses various orthogonal reasons for India's economic state ? No.
Overall, 3/5 from me.