A Review – “The Traverser’s Memoirs”

Trains are delightful and long reads on train more so. This time, I was breaching one of my personal rules again, reading through “The Traverser’s Memoirs”, by S.M.Y Rafi, an author I kind of know personally. It is a hazy territory, going in to review a book written by a friend, or an acquaintance. There is always this chance that you will sound a tad bit harsher, that one tad bit wrong and the friendship will come to a stop. This has happened before. But, thankfully this time, I can safely say, in my honest opinion, no less, that this book is good.

Being good, doesn’t translate into being infallible. However, for a person who is writing his first book, for something that has been printed hastily, “The Traverser’s Memoirs” might as well be one of the best books that could come out of the situations. The history and geography has had a lot of imagining, a lot of work behind it, and it shows. The rich culture showcases itself in moments and the way the research has been done right down to the last detail is something that you admire. Overall, you admire the story too, it’s a fabric wound around the same thread that brings along a lot of fantasy, and yet, in its own personal way it stands out, and how brilliantly.
And Epidrae is brilliantly etched. There is something personal about this huge expansive world with different cultures. Often the author sounds boastful in the foreword, but, as a fellow author I do understand. The world building is something that really resonates well for me in this book.

Yet, it has its problems. Before the story even resonates, we’re presented with a huge info dump, which makes the story a hard one to pick up. Now, this isn’t “Lord of the Rings”, which pulls you in from the first moment into its world, and then introduces you to the rich tapestry of the world, here the history is laid out in a manner. When you have done so much work on this, it is easy to appear as a show off, and I only wish that it didn’t happen this way. This happens twice over in the story too. Another problem is exposition, more often than not, action scenes seem to be a matter of more “tell” and much less “show”, to the point when I found myself wishing that I could just skip over them.

Just compare the action to the emotional scenes and you will see the difference. While, written the same way, the emotional scenes triumph. And whatever, Mr. Rafi is, he is not a mere peddler who is begging to be noticed, there is some considerable talent in parts of the book; some pages where, I felt like I was actually getting into this universe, something that I rarely experience now-a-days with fantasy.

The characters are brightly etched, even though I choose to wish for something greater in their depictions, in the way they interact. One of the largest problems with this book is the dialogue, which appears uneven throughout. Some places, the dialogues are beautifully woven, but, in others, they are so mechanical that it affects the reading of the story. It is a shame because I believe that good dialogues could have enhanced most characters to another level.

So, yeah overall, it is a good book, and I would honestly read it again. However, it does need editing, and a careful deliberation over the good and the bad. There is a lot of meat that can be cut away from the book, as there is story that can be added into. Personally speaking, this is something I would pay money for, even though it won’t be in my list of “immediate buys” from a book store. However, simply because of the scope, the world and the research done into the world, this is a recommended reading.

Rating – 3/5

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“Whore”

Whore was such a beautiful insult
When we were in sixth grade
“Randi” rolls off my tongue
Fired at a classmate
Who I heard had her breasts pressed
But, that is not why I called her that
Just that she had been rude
And being more rude made sense
But, then it is ninth or tenth grade
I bark the same at my best friend
“I am vulnerable”, a poor excuse
Shattering her heart to make mine whole
A look in the mirror when in twelfth
I regret those words said
Because they were in anger
And I suddenly love being this “whore”
The dirt accumulates in layers
“Sexual promiscuity is a disease” plastered
On my mind
“Oh how could he have had a one night stand?”
“This hook up culture would ruin us all.”
Words to dress up like a gentleman
While in dreams I wander
I dream of my lips and his Adam’s apple
A kiss where his beard doesn’t interfere
Tongue down the male sternum
Onto the slight divide between the belly and the pubes
Of being pushed up against the wall
His breath burning
Buttholes, Buttholes, Buttholess
Pictures stored in hidden folders
The freckled breasts of an actress
A year older
Cumming on a creaky bed
To the image of
“Emo gay teen masterbating”
I am as much a child of sexuality
As anyone else
There is no shame in genitalia
In the flaps of skin of foreskin
Or the nerve endings in the clitoris
Elvish queen secreting milk
Zoned out, selling sex by 5th street
“Here for casual sex”, upfront
There’s no need for money when it’s fucking
Dingy hotel rooms, 200 bucks an hour
His smell, his manhood, my mouth
“Sir, this boy is eager to please”
So, I remember my rumour
“50 bucks for one blowjob”
And laugh, for I’d have done it for less
Of only the man was right
10 bucks and an ice-cream would have sufficed
For heaven’s sake, it is hard to distinguish
When you say it like that
Why couldn’t the nympho be the nymph
And not the hatred in “Whore”
Fuck it then, I will sell my flesh for pleasure
In a country where hate manifests
In festivals, the scene of loud voices
And the unwanted touch
That is my choice, my politics
Indulgence in the warmth and body hair
Or the slight curvature of the belly
If the whore is what I must become
Then I might as well be the best at it
And “Randi” isn’t something I say anymore
And when I call someone whore
It is a pat on the back of a fellow soldier
A smile exchanged
A celebrattion
Of a sexuality that is a weapon

Pride

Among the 100 “”fuck you”s I yelled today
I am shamed to say almost 90 of them were hate
I am ashamed to hate because that causes death
So much death
But, how do you respond then?
Your brethren lie in blood, tears and shit
Wishing for some sort of reprieve from this slaughter
That people have directed at them for centuries
You can turn 10 “fuck you”s to poetry
To verses recited at the top of your voice in front of
A group of people who would molest you
If only they had the chance
You recite your words and make them into thinkers maybe
You turn about 50 “fuck you”s to tragedies
Songs and movies written over the backdrop of love
And loss, Rock Hudson and bitterness
The image of Schyuler and moonlit sidewalks
At the heart of a beat stricken Castro
The 20 “fuck you”s are about caring
About hand in hand after the long night
Talks about eternity and how he would survive
One more shooting, ten more still
Because he hasn’t told his story yet
The last 10 are problematic though
I guess they are reserved for the ones we hate so
To turn our hatred into speeches for knowledge
Into standing up at the roaring opposition
And telling them
“We are here for love’s sake
And my lover lies dying, God knows we do not
Have a lot of shot. But, remember how you love your wife
I love him the same, with the same intensity.
And I know you think it is wrong, that our sex
Is more important than our feelings
But, can’t you see? In these tears we don’t just hide
Our yearnings for a fucking penis
Can’t you just see a little more through praying
That we’re fucking perverse only in our bedrooms
But, even without that, we are so much more”