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Friday April 13, 2012 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday May 26, 2013 MYT 12:54:11 AM
by tunku halim
A Malaysian author makes a thrilling e-book debut.
Author: John Ling
Publisher: Kia Kaha Press, 203 pages
IF a novel burns inside you, then give it your best shot. Make it the best book you could ever write. If unsympathetic book publishers turn you down (probably citing how difficult times are in the book industry), then consider the self-publishing route. John Ling, a Malaysian based in New Zealand, has done just that. His novel, The Blasphemer, has just been released as an e-book with a hard copy following soon.
This fast-paced thriller set in Auckland grabs you with the first chapter. There’s an assassination attempt. Will it succeed, you ask? Who is the target anyway? Initially, we see the action from the point-of-view of the killer. We’re at one with him, breathing, thinking, heart beating hard as he stalks the suburban house of his prey. This is the hallmark of a good craftsmanship. Indeed, the quality of the writing throughout is excellent.
A sudden shift occurs in the second chapter. We’re in the mind of the target. Then we leap into his wife’s distraught head as the couple barricade themselves in the bedroom. Much later, we see things from the point of view of the young woman assigned to protect the target. As chapters proceed, we’re amidst the bullet-whizzing, knife-slicing action with a drug dealer, the hit team’s scheming boss, an unfortunate Muslim immigrant, a hateful Nazi and a skilful replacement assassin.
It’s the fine details that bring any novel to life. Descriptions ground a narrative in a fictional reality. It provides the story with believability. In the case of The Blasphemer, the weapons deployed, surveillance equipment and techniques, training methods, security tactics and intelligence analysis bring it to life. One may wonder whether the author has had personal experience in the security services. It is most likely, though, that it’s due to his own extensive research.
This novel is more than your standard thriller. The all-too-real tension between Muslim immigrants and xenophobic locals rises to the surface, culminating in a street protest that turns tragic. The concerns of Muslim communities living in Western countries post 9/11 (when terrorists brought down New York’s twin towers in 2001) and the schism between Sunni and Shia Islam are also explored. Abraham Khan, after all, is targeted because he is the author of an e-book critical of radical Islam.
The Blasphemer can therefore provide an educational experience if you’re not familiar with the underlying political and religious issues. Its non-fiction antecedents are made clear in the author’s afterword.
Any negatives? At just over 50,000 words, the novel feels slightly abridged. It just seems far too early to leave this gripping tale. But in our increasingly fast-paced world, perhaps the length is just perfect. Certainly there’s scope for a sequel and one that is set in Malaysia, a country the author is more than familiar with. So, perhaps in his own words: Next stop, Malaysia.
John Ling’s website is at johnling.net. You can download several chapters to “test-drive” The Blasphemer. It is available from amazon.com for US$2.99 (about RM9.30).
Veteran author Tunku Halim has more than a dozen books to his name, including History Of Malaysia – A Children’s Encyclopedia and 44 Cemetery Road. He blogs at tunkuhalim.wordpress.com.
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