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The City of Devi: A Novel Hardcover – February 4, 2013

3.5 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews
Book 3 of 3 in the Hindu Gods Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

During their awkward courtship, physicist Karun tells statistician Sarita about an alternative vision of the Hindu triumvirate in which Brahman is replaced with the mother goddess Devi. This trinity just so happens to match the novels in Suri’s now completed trilogy: The Death of Vishnu (2001), The Age of Shiva (2008), and The City of Devi. So frenetic, concussive, and flagrantly explicit is this on-target, apocalyptic urban satire, Suri can stand as the Tom Wolfe of Mumbai. First the city is bewitched by a futuristic Bollywood extravaganza, Superdevi. Then war breaks out between Pakistan and India, the nuclear threat escalates, Hindu and Muslim vigilantes menace the populace, and Devi herself appears at a beach resort, drawing a frenzied crowd. Yet Sarita is determined to cross the perilous city-in-ruins to search for her husband. Jaz—gay, Muslim, self-mocking, impish, and resolute—is also on a risk-all quest of the heart. By daringly yoking erotic longing with terrorism in a trinitarian tale of amped-up mythology and end-of-world chaos, Suri forges an incendiary love story and provocative improvisation on India’s monumental epics. --Donna Seaman

Review

The best sex comedy of the year about nuclear war between India and Pakistan...Even amid the wondrous variety of contemporary Indian fiction, Suri’s work stands apart, mingling comedy and death, eroticism and politics, godhood and Bollywood like no one else. (Ron Charles - Washington Post)

The City of Devi combines, in a magician's feat, the thrill of Bollywood with the pull of a thriller. Set in a city at the brink of the end, this is a fiercely imagined story of three souls haunted by a love that will change their most elemental ideas of identity. Manil Suri's bravest and most passionate book. (Kiran Desai)

The City of Devi is so exuberant and sexy, one may wish to purchase a prophylactic alongside it. When the world comes to an end, I will spend my last days in Mumbai clutching a copy of Manil Suri's dazzling epic. (Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story and Absurdistan)

With comedic flashes and a plot that pulses forward, Suri’s tale solidifies the reputation he earned as a master storyteller with The Death of Vishnu and The Age of Shiva. Layered with themes that draw on Hindu mythology, this new work is equal parts near-apocalyptic drama and heartfelt Bollywood-esque love story. (Rupinder Gill - O Magazine)

Even amid the wondrous variety of contemporary Indian fiction, Suri’s work stands apart, mingling comedy and death, eroticism and politics, godhood and Bollywood like no one else. (Ron Charles - Washington Post)

Suri’s prose is reason enough to pick up the book, but what ultimately makes the reader turn the pages is the intertwined destinies of the three characters. In the end, love is all that matters, Suri seems to be saying. (Bharti Kirchner - Seattle Times)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition (February 4, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393088758
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393088755
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,242,003 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I started reviewing books when I first read, "The Death of Vishnu" by Manil Suri. In fact, that review is also one of the first on this blog. From there on I have read everything that he has written, not because of the fact stated above, but because I admire his writing and his thought process. Suri has the uncanny ability to make so much sense of ordinary situations. His characters aren't larger than life, however the circumstances are and with good reason - to move the plot ahead, to make the reader see and above all, to make them feel.

It is no wonder that I absolutely loved reading his new book, "The City of Devi" (the last in the not so connected series). "The City of Devi" has been touted as a dystopian novel; however I did not think it had anything to do with it. The story as his other two books has been set in Mumbai. It is about Sarita, a thirty-three year old statistician (the math angle did not surprise me considering Manil is a mathematician) who can throughout only think of one thing: To be reunited with her physicist husband Karun, who has disappeared. The times are tough: Mumbai is emptying itself under the threat of a nuclear annihilation. There are not many people left. This has almost led to anarchy. The past can but only be remembered.

Amidst all this Sarita sets out to search for her husband, in-between the gang wars of Hindus and Muslims (this angle makes you also choke a little). With her is Jaz, a Muslim whose religion is only to have sex with other men. That is what he enjoys the most - sex and nothing else and at the same time he is looking for his own lover in the city. The third angle to the book is the Goddess Devi herself who has materialized on the beach to save her city. Sarita, Jaz and Devi play their roles in the book from there on.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The City of Devi has an anime feel to it with its fantasy approach to a very big problem: the end of the world. It contains the genre's requisite sexual themes (and positions), invisible danger, magical objects, superpowers, heroes and villains, and graphic anti-humor.

Our heroine Sarita is on a mission to find her husband, who has disappeared during a curious conference and may be in danger. She's a bit of a prima donna, yet fiercely focused on her journey as she is saved from one catastrophe by a different catastrophe. Sarita is nonplussed by the panoply of pandemonia she encounters: gangs, ground warfare, imminent nuclear annihilation, a literal crazy train, elephants, circus cults, never enough Marmite, a Wizard, particle physics, an absurd aquarium, train derailments (both literal and figurative), a levitating mascot, glow-in-the-dark saris, floods and a tourist version of Noah's Ark, all tied to the rising price of pomegranates.

I enjoyed the book's "normal" first section, especially the scenes of Sarita and Karun attempting to consummate their marriage of two years. (Ominously, their wedding coincided with the beginning of the war.) These scenes are not carnal; instead, they are imaginative and full of inventive uses of yoga and gaming. These moments impart a quiet beauty in the midst of a nascent chaos. But then Sarita boards that crazy train, and the real fantasy train wreck begins.

The City of Devi got particularly arduous for me in the last quarter. I forced myself to finish the book just to see who lives and who dies. So perhaps Manil Suri was successful in creating an anxiety in me about the characters, that I should care even that much. Or perhaps I was just anxious that ANY of the characters would survive.
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Format: Paperback
The backdrop and locales are real. So are the characters. The premise is surreal. So are the scenes and the ensuing complications.

Where Manil scores is in effectively exploring the emotions and motivations of Sarita and Jaz, neither of whom is interestingly, the Protagonist! The novel unfolds in the first person, alternating between the points of view of Sarita and Jaz, as Manil takes us on a whirlwind tour of Bombay/ Mumbai which is on the verge of complete collapse in a 'the world is coming to an end' way. Their voices are distinct and while they are seemingly united in the pursuit of a shared goal, the reader is kept on the edge to find out how the inter-woven conflict will tear them apart! Whether the sensitive undertones of a same-sex relationship or the brutal realities of growing up within the shrouds of homosexuality in India, Manil brings a certain non-judgmental maturity to his narration without falling prey to stereotypes.

The denouement and ending, however, was disappointing, as are some of the sex scenes, which are not written with any great finesse. As a reader, neither was I fully vested in the interests of the Protagonist (Karun) nor did I fully comprehend why he held such a strong sway over both Sarita and Jaz. Had there been snippets from the point of view of Karun that may have helped?
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The many levels of symbolism make the good story that much better. The dual narrators add to the depth of perception of human motivation.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Mumbai is emptying out as a threat of nuclear war looms. Sarita, a statistician, is looking for her physicist husband who has mysteriously disappeared. She wanders around the city as criminals fill the street and chaos reigns. The patron goddess Devi has returned to the beach to save the city and Sarita slowly makes her way to the beach but what will she ultimately find there? This was an interesting book with plenty of violence and flashy images. Quite inventive.
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