Despite a few rough critics it encountered from some purists (especially of Indian origin), The Mountain Shadow, a sequel grandiosely written by the talented Gregory David Roberts, is as captivating as Shantaram, its predecessor. It has been published ten years later, in October 2015. I have read it with the same pleasure, because it was very catchy, almost as the first one. It seems a long read, some other nine hundred pages, but it’s definitely worthy. If you loved Shantaram, you will love this one too.
A Few Things About The Mountain Shadow
The action in The Mountain Shadow is placed two years from the one in Shantaram. Lin, called more often “Shantaram” now, is working for the same mob “company”, making the same stuff, false papers and helping here and there. As any other mob organization, the main activity is making money, and Lin is part of it. He is only a pawn, even if now, he has some influence around, a few good friends, and he seems untouchable in the good sense. He was “made”, to speak in the terms of Cosa Nostra. Yet he has not executive power in the new structure, the one after the painful and futile trip to Soviet invaded Afghanistan.
You remember Karla, right? Karla is the love of his life, elusively described in Shantaram. He started again to talk to her, he even hopes to be again “one” with her. To find out if this happens, you have to read the book, of course.
A different but dangerous fact now is that he wants to break with the “Company”, because, like Mario Puzzo’s Don Vito Corleone, he didn’t agree of them selling “white” drugs. he wants to start some gangster stuff on his own, because that’s what you do when you are a fugitive from justice. Tough task to do, but not impossible. Of course, again he needs to make a futile “political” trip to another remote and extremely dangerous place, because he owed it to Khaderbai, his mentor. It’s like buying himself out from the “company”. This is disputable, but don’t forget that Shantaram character is a noble and extremely honorable person inside. He is perfect, no half measures about him. He delivered weapons to some extreme Communists now, in Sri Lanka, an action somehow in opposition with what he did in Afghanistan, in Shantaram, where he helped to deliver weapons to anti Communist insurgents… Anyway, it is a colorful experience. Less colorful is his retreat at the mountain shadow, where his mentor’s mentor wins witty cheap contests one after another, with sage people from all the subcontinent. They are called “philosophical challenges”, and they are sometimes practiced by other Muslim families with numerous members. If you don’t already know it, you can find the meaning of life and more other wise meanings, as a bonus. This guru, is a sort of Rajneesh, and The Mountain Shadow is a meditation retreat.
Some characters you already met, some appear now but they were always part of the action, and some are really new. They are strong characters and they are very spicy and colorful. They are all far from boring. No regular people near Shantaram.
You love it or not. There are not maybes involved. If you loved Shantaram, you love The Mountain Shadow because it plays on the same turf. It’s rare when one can say that it is less good, and considering things a little more careful, he doesn’t understand what he found at Shantaram in the first place, but this may happen. It is a novel dealing with strong characters, with a lot of violence and a lot of unthinkable stuff.
I don’t have any complaints, I only have a few comments. You need to read Shantaram before this one, not just for the sake of continuity, but you’ll understand it better. Don’t be appalled by the language, it’s more decent than what you hear in most of the American movies, but you have to close your eyes to the excessive and continuously use of dope in any form, by all the characters in the novel.
It also seems that The Mountain Shadow wants to be wittier than Shantaram, it is not only a gangsterish narrative, it’s a collection of aphorisms and philosophy. A little bit cheap, or “light” at this chapter, if you ask me. Now the main character, Lin-Shantaram, is not “almost perfect” as a man, he is the perfection. He doesn’t have any flaws, he pays his former tormentor, the policeman, great deals of money to stop torturing guys he just met at the police station. He donates money, he throws money, he refuses gifts of money, he unconditionally helps everybody around, beggars, sinners, crooks, former tourists, junkies, etc, etc.
The author, Gregory David Roberts, added a sort of disclaimer where he says that he doesn’t endorse drug abuse and alcohol consumption and that the characters and events described in the book are purely fictional. Atta boy, now we come home regarding the perfection of Linbaba and his infallible Karla, who takes powerful Scotch shots and smokes some strong dope before every business meeting. Lin in turn, smokes dope in every situation, he drinks Scotch, and he’s always clear, powerful, wise, skillful, generous, and a talented short stories writer. He loves his bike and he respects her. He is also the ultimate mechanic, he acquired and renovated one more bike just because he loves and respects bikes. He is tough, he does tricky business around, he handles con artists whom main victims are foreign tourists, he meets tons of people daily, he writes, he smokes chillums and drinks beers at Leopold’s, he is a most experimented street fighter and he usually deals with complicated stuff alone. He, alone, stroke the main rival “company’s” safe house, or he spared its vicious leader’s life only because at home, his wife was sick. No stain on Linbaba, he’s very brave, beside being perfect.
All in all, I have enjoyed it a lot, and again, it left me with a very powerful feeling. I still love Bombay (after Shantaram I almost craved it), but much softer now. My next visit can wait a little longer.
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