After the phenomenal success of his debut novel, Keep Off The Grass, Karan Bajaj’s next, Johnny Gone Down seems just as promising. Aditi Dharmadhikari tells us why.
Just the name of Karan Bajaj’s book paints torrid this backdrop of explosions, clouding the air with smoke, dust and more than just a sense of suspense. Music loaded with the anticipatory drama of the situation bursts forth into a crescendo as the protagonist walks to the foreground in slow motion dripping with sweat, his muscles glinting oh-so-carelessly in the light. His martyred eyes gaze out fearlessly at his (obviously) awestruck audience, his half-smug half-smile the only giveaway as to his victory over the bad guy.
Whatta hero, no?
it is not to be so.
But hats off to Karan Bajaj for sending me on such a vivid visual journey on the basis of nothing more than his title!
That’s exactly the kind of book Johnny Gone Down is – like a movie screening in your head. It’s like having your head populated with Cambodian autocrats, panicking tourists, monks in a Thai monastery, Brazilian drug lords and a software engineer inflicted by midlife crisis in rapid progression, coupled with a considerable amount of violence and just a pinch of irony.
Let’s put it like this: you will have to pry your eyeballs from the pages.
Nikhil Arya starts out as the clichéd jock-boy for a holiday to Cambodia with his friend, ‘Sam’, after graduation for a taste of freedom. An unexpected political crisis there provokes a bout of conscientious idealism that makes him hand over practically his whole life as he had planned it, to ‘Sam’ in the form of an American passport – his.
“What d’you think you’re doing, Nick?” That’s what you’ll find yourself screaming at the book every couple of pages. This boy is just asking for trouble, with a knack for landing himself in situations that spiral a mind-boggling amount of control.
Spontaneous decisions, good luck, bad luck, the kind of luck you can’t make up your mind about, being in the wrong place at the wrong time and the uncanny tendency to make brave but stupid choices makes Nick the kind of protagonist that you find yourself following through from one country to the next with bated breath and lots of prayers (just let him get out of this one mess alive God, please!).
There isn’t anything too flamboyant or beautiful or even noticeable about Karan Bajaj’s writing style but this is one author who knows how to tell a good story without making it seem stunted or disjointed. The emotional journey that Nick goes through is told in a very credible way without being over the top. This, in itself, is a feat considering that the protagonist lives a total of seven lives, all in very different capacities without losing his mind.
Living your life to the limit does leave a sense of bittersweet regret, an aftermath that you can’t ever completely come to terms with.
A book that you can finish easily in one reading-obsessed day, Johnny Gone Down is just begging to be made into a thriller movie; the kinds that leave you hanging off your seat right till its nail-biting finish.