Reviewed by Monideepa Sahu
Title: Revolt of the Lamebren
Author: Manjiri Prabhu
Popular Indian mystery author Manjiri Prabhu successfully forays into the dystopian domain with this first part of a proposed series. Imaginative and fast-paced, the story takes us into a disturbing future we might end up creating for our descendants if we are not alert and aware right now. This novel has all the elements of a well-written and entertaining page turner, with enough action and dramatic tension. There is also a thoughtful core, brought out with a light and unobtrusive touch, to draw readers out of their complacency.
The idea for this tale was inspired by a true incident which the author witnessed in her home city of Pune. Some years ago, the municipal authorities were rounding up stray dogs. The author couldn’t help notice how mothers were cruelly torn apart from their puppies. Even a few dogs with collars were caught, simply because they were roaming unattended on the streets. Prabhu was struck by a small boy, dressed in adult style clothes, who smirked with sadistic glee as he watched the dogs crying in pain and suffering. Was this where humanity was headed, she wondered.
In the world of the Super Dome, the privileged Altklugs maintain their superiority over the systematically subjugated Lamebren. Altklugs don’t earn their knowledge and status. All the knowledge of the world gets effortlessly crammed into their heads through capsules which only they get from the K Bank. The Lamebren are denied this and treated as menials and expendables. They are rounded up and summarily liquidated at the whims of their superiors, just like the stray dogs are dispatched to a cruel fate in today’s world.
It’s a tight competitive world out there. Altklugs have to perform with optimum efficiency to justify and support their existence in our world. Which means, their life would have no space for idle thought like you Lamebren have. No idle thought, no over-reactive emotions, no bonds – the perfect equation to erase psychobabble. The perfect definition for cent percent success.
In this mechanical vein, an Altklug publicly dissects the emotions and innermost fears of a Lamebren boy for his friend who has been dispatched to another facility and been cut off from the rest of their group. While such passages do read like blunt expositional statements, they also show how the Altklugs function without emotions or human bonding.
Zinnia and her Lamebren friends are like today’s normal humans, who are born with pre-ordained termination dates. Everyone in this future world have to compress 6.25 human years into their one year. If they do not die naturally by then, they are terminated. As Zinnia deals with the stifling existence in the Super Dome, she discovers startling dark secrets revealing the cruelty of the existence imposed upon the Lamebren by the Altklug. She asks far-reaching questions and faces grave dangers in her quest for self-realization and justice for the race of Lamebren.
‘Do you know what it means to be a child – a real child longing for its mother’s love, snuggling against her warmth, learning things from its father?’ Zinnia finally gathers courage to ask the Altklug leaders. ‘Do you know what it means to play with a puppy or sing a song?… As long as you don’t experience these emotions, the Altklug world will remain synthetic. This Ace-world of Altklugs is not perfect, it is lopsided, and the only chance it has of real happiness is if you allow the Lamebren to live their full lives!’…
Her petition is heard and discarded by the leadership. What happens next? Pick up this book for an exciting read.
Monideepa Sahu is the author of Going Home in the Rain and Other Stories (Kitaab, Singapore), Riddle of the Seventh Stone (Zubaan, India), and Rabindranath Tagore: the Renaissance Man (Penguin / Puffin, India). She has edited Kitaab’s The Best Asian Short Stories (2017) and her short fiction has apparead in collections from Central Michigan University, Northeastern Illinois University, Puffin, Scholastic India, among others.