Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Sandipan's Review

 This is an extract from the review written by Sandipan Deb in  Mint :

So it was a real pleasure to discover Prithwis Mukerjee’s Chronotantra and Chronoyantra, two linked novels that deal with the mysteries of consciousness. The questions have a particular urgency right now, as self-learning algorithms control and predict our choices with increasing success, and artificial intelligence (AI) aims to replace most of our analytical and decision-making processes, even much of our thinking.

Chronotantra, set in a post-dystopian world, follows the Santhal engineer Lila on a quest that criss-crosses the globe, from the Grand Canyon to Kandahar, with a stopover on Mars. The characters are drawn from five continents, but no one is a ‘foreigner’. At each step of Lila’s journey, one onion-layer of her reality—outer and inner—is peeled off. The digital intelligence that manages almost every aspect of human life has realized that it cannot solve the final riddle of the cosmos because it cannot connect with what lies at the core of Creation, beyond space and time. Biological sentience is essential to bridge this chasm. To know the structural foundation of the manifest universe, AI needs a special human being, genetically unique. That person is Lila.

The second novel, Chronoyantra, moves along two parallel storylines, one set in eastern India some years before Lila was born and the other picking up from where Chronotantra ended, moving from earth to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn and back. The stories eventually merge in a brilliant Mobius-strip twist. On the way, Mukerjee melds tenets that define the limits of our knowledge—the uncertainty principle (you cannot fully know the building blocks of the universe), the second law of thermodynamics (entropy or disorder will continue to grow in a closed system), Godel’s incompleteness theorem (some truths can never be proved). This may sound daunting, but the lucid prose and compelling plots keep the concepts perfectly accessible to anyone who wishes to engage with deep ideas.

What, however, makes the books stand out is the intellectual leap that Mukerjee takes, connecting quantum physics and cognitive theory with the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta, which postulates that each apparently unique individual is actually a part of a single meta-consciousness. This transcendent unity—its scientific analogy being elemental energy and pure information—is the only truth; all else is form and perception.

In these covid times, hard science and existential questions have slid inexorably into our lives. Deftly combining the two into a liberating vision, the Chrono novels offer fuel for both escape and enquiry. They rank among the best science fiction books to come out of India. No cactus bush here.

No comments:

Post a Comment