Baronas imagines a world steeped in great spiritual power in this debut novel.
Jude Ryder is an aspiring filmmaker turned drug dealer—as well as a deep James Dean aficionado—who finds himself in 1970s India searching for a larger spiritual truth. In Haridwar, where the holy Ganges meets the fertile plain of northern India at the base of the Himalayas, Jude encounters a couple of ascetics who promise to take him to meet Shiva. Jude has been burned before by those claiming to know the path to enlightenment. “Hashish Shiva is a phony Shiva,” he tells them when he sees their pipes. “You’re not yogis, you’re a couple of fakes.” The yogis turn out to be the real deal, however, and Jude sets off on a quest that will take him to the edges of reality and truth. He learns the concept of true war, wherein the soul must free itself of entrapments, and of the brahmastra, a spiritual nuclear bomb that can wreak havoc on the foes of the fighter who possesses it. His training will take him across the world, from Haridwar to his native Los Angeles, where a power rises that threatens to destabilize the balance of the universe. Navigating through a secret world of cults, spirits, loves, and betrayals, Jude embarks on a journey to become a true mystical warrior and defeat the ultimate enemy: that which resides inside himself. Snide and vain, Jude is a nearly unbearable protagonist. When one of his ascetic guides criticizes war as “false,” Jude replies with this platitude: “If it were not for false war you might well be goose-stepping up and down Chandi Chawk.” The application of Hindu spiritualism to a Western-style urban fantasy novel is intriguing, and Baronas displays ambition in the range of concepts he attempts to address. Unfortunately, the characters around which he has built his story aren’t substantial enough to support it, and much of the book ends up feeling more like a didactic philosophical essay than a work of speculative fiction.
A high-concept, if ultimately underwhelming, fantasy tale inspired by Hindu teachings.