Thursday, January 28, 2010

Reviewed: The Beast with Nine Billion Feet

The Beast with Nine Billion Feet
by Anil Menon
Young Zubaan (2009)
Four Green Stars (very good indeed!)

In Anil Menon's The Beast with Nine Billion Feet, Pune of 2040 is a city that is at once familiar and strange: strict Sanskrit teachers; climate change; roadside dhabas; talking auto rickshaws; and persistent poverty--the Pune of the future has it all, and then some.  Thirteen year old Tara and her seventeen year old brother, Aditya live with their aunt and face many of the same problems young people have always faced: confusing friendships, unreasonable adults, difficult exams.  But when they meet two strange new friends and their "terrorist" father comes out of exile to a hero's welcome, things begin to get exciting.

This is not a "guide to green living", nor is it a political tract. It is a well-written adventure.  But we are reviewing it here at the dhaba because good literature has always been one way in which people confront and consider the important questions of their time.   And The Beast with Nine Billion Feet will get young readers thinking about many important questions.  Is it OK to genetically modify life to meet human whims or needs? Can science serve super-rich citizens of super-developed northern countries and poor Indian farmers at the same time?  Is Indian democracy capable of responding to a genuine (and messy) people's movement for ecological and social justice?

This book is successful in part because it does not provide tidy answers to the questions it raises.  Like most good literature, The Beast with Nine Billion Feet is challenging. If you read only Enid Blyton or Chetan Bhagat, this might not be your cup of tea.  But those who are willing to willing to work a little bit will not be disappointed.  And if you have a 13+ year old child who likes science fiction, this is a must buy.  In fact, if you are a science fiction fan of any age, you should consider buying this book for yourself.

Buy The Beast with Nine Billion Feet at Friends of Books.
Author Anil Menon's website


  1. Four green stars! Excellent! I am totally biased, as Anil's publisher, of course. But lovely to see this review - spot on!
    Anita Roy/Young Zubaan

  2. @Anita, thanks for stopping by the dhaba! Great job on the book!

  3. @yasho and Eni: thanks for stopping by the dhaba. Hope you come back soon!

  4. My son is a fan of the book. mayhaps I should read it as well.

  5. @mridula, that's good to hear. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Your review is exactly right. I loved the history lesson on the French Revolution. Internal logic is perfect; language terrific. Loved the embedded verse, the puns.

  7. I agree with Anonymous. Why isn't the book more visible in bookshops?

  8. @Anonymous, I'm glad you liked it. I agree, btw, with what you say: this is an intelligent book on many levels.

    @Chotu, Aside from the obvious blockbusters, distribution seems to be a widespread problem. It may be especially difficult for a book which does not fit into the boxes we expect books to fit into. When I see a bookstore is not carrying a book I like, I sometimes take the time to mention it to them; if they hear it enough, sometimes they'll order it.


What do you think?