Joey's Reviews > The Calcutta Chromosome: A Novel of Fevers, Delirium & Discovery

The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghosh
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Feb 08, 2012

liked it
Read from February 08 to 10, 2012 , read count: 1

What a strange, atmospheric, genre-defying book - little did I think that a story based on Ronald Ross's discovery of malaria and life cycle of the anopheles mosquito could be so absorbing. It begins in futuristic New York where Antar, an Egyptian computer specialist who is part of a corporation that is conducting, it seems, an inventory of the world - discovers a fragment of an ID card that belonged to a colleague who was obsessed with Ross and malaria. So much so, the colleague had found his way to Calcutta (where Ross lived and worked) and then disappeared. The colleague, Murugan, believed that Ross's discovery was manipulated by a shadowy and forbidding Indian 'counter-science' group that manipulated the direction of malaria research to suit its own arcane purposes. Antar becomes determined to unravel the mystery of his colleague's disappearance, and there unfolds a many-layered tale of twists and turns.

Part gothic horror, part pulse-lifting mystery/thriller, part-sci-fi/paranormal/ghost story, part critique of the colonial scientific establishment and its insistence on "English" discoveries - the story is fast-paced, rich and intriguing. All the characters are well-drawn and I especially loved that a subject that could so easily be dominated by men, had several strong, interesting women. It also brings up some interesting questions regarding for instance the tyranny of academy and how it promotes only certain ways of seeing; western medicine versus non-traditional healing; and immortality. All his held together by some really lyrical writing and lifting descriptions of life in Calcutta - from the suffocating home life of an aspiring journalist; to crossing streets with your life in your hands; to train rides out of Sealdah station; to the winding lanes of Kumartoli where the statues of gods and goddesses are sculpted. If I must critique it, I would say that they story works really well at the horror/thriller/sci-fic/mystery level. However, on the metaphysical level, gets a bit too fantastical and stretches one's willing suspension of disbelief to the very limit.

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Calcutta Chromosome.
Sign In »

No comments have been added yet.