The City of Devi by Manil Suri has been out for quite sometime, and I’m not quite sure why it has taken me until now to read it. I have loved all of Suri’s previous books, but was perhaps a little hesitant to read this one as I’d heard it took place after a nuclear attack. Sounded just a little bit to close to post-apocalyptic to me.
I needn’t have worried. First, The City of Devi is not a futuristic, post-apocalyptic tale. It is set in the very near future and is entirely plausible in every way. Suri builds his tale around the rising tensions between Pakistan and India, and between Muslims and Hindus within Bombay. He also brings in the complex issue of sexuality in an increasingly police monitored state. All this while a character from a Bollywood movie ascends as the presiding deity of the city.
I loved The City of Devi. It was a love song to Bombay, one of my favorite cities in India, a tale of lovers in a dangerous time and fiery concoction of politics, satire and adventure. I do wonder, however, if the story would be as powerful for those who are not as familiar with Indian and Pakistani politics. And for me, towards the end it veered a little to much into action adventure.
The story was also wonderfully multi-layered. It nicely completes a triptych with his other two novels The Death of Vishnu and The Age of Shiva. Put together, the three are the kind of thing I’d like to write a university paper on.
Who would like this book? If you’ve read Suri’s other books, then you know you are going to love this one as well. For anyone who is interested in the geo-politics of the region, this book is a fascinating exploration into the realm of the what-if. And fans of Bollywood will also appreciate the overlapping of cinema and politics in The City of Devi. For me, it was a 5 star read.