Amballore House by Jose Thekkumthala

Amballore House

Horror, Humor, Crime, Science Fiction
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Thekkumthala’s magical-realist comic-cosmic phantasmagoria welcomes readers to a bizarre community in India, where a notoriously haunted landmark mansion sees UFO aliens, disappearances, drug crimes, murder, and madcap paranormal phenomena.

In the Malayalee town of Amballore in Kerala, India, the unbelievable, the mythological, and the mundane riotously coexist. Amballore House, a five-acre relic from the days of the British Raj, is the neighborhood’s haunted mansion; it boasts a history of trespassers disappearing or drowning in the well. The house sits at the terminus of a boulevard called Hells Highway, a road adorned by accursed cult temples, the lunatic asylum, graveyards, and sylphlike spirits who dance to the music of popular Indian movies. Moreover, a paranormal public-transportation bus—known as the Midnight Express for its nighttime ufological behavior, i.e., flying, shape-shifting, and teleportation—makes a regular nocturnal run on (or over) Hell’s Highway to the house. Half of Thekkumthala’s narrative is not so much a story as a tour of the area, going all the way back to a nutty treatise on the evolution of prehistoric Homo sapiens in the vicinity; due to regular alien-abduction genetic tampering, the locals are now the variation Homo Malayalee. The highly elastic narrative leapfrogs back and forth between 1960 and 1988 with several recurring characters, most notably the elderly couple of Vareed and Eli. They are part of a family whose ancestors have been regularly abducted by aliens going back 5,000 years. Since their own ET abductions, Vareed and Eli have been systematically returning to Earth to kidnap the best minds of humanity and send them off-planet via a space-time wormhole beneath Amballore House, serviced by a loyal retinue of robots. The crazy servings of sci-fi, over-the-top crimes and courtroom inquests, distorted folk beliefs, boondocks gossip, errant reportage in the Amballore Times, inferior scholarship by the region’s university community, and lots and lots of toddy drinking take on a new light in the closing chapter. That’s when Thekkumthala introduces a new character and the haunting possibility that all this activity might actually be the “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”–type imaginary confabulations of a sad local who sought to escape an unhappy, poverty-stricken home life. The blend of regional flavor, fantastic whimsy, and pathos will strike readers with a taste for riotous exoticism stirred with tabloid tropes.

A mad masala of mythology and absurd mayhem that takes an unexpectedly poignant twist.

Publisher: Manuscript
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2016


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