The story begins on a night in the year 2050 in New York city where we are introduced to the central character of our story Ismael. Ismael is a Pakistani who was brought up in a rather rigid and conservative family and told stories about paradise (Jannat) and hell (Jahannum) during his childhood by his father.
He soon realizes that his father is so religiously blind that he will go to any limits to safeguard it. He thus runs away from home at the age of 18 and goes to New York.
In 2050, Ismael is 30 years old and he is currently writing his thesis on the topic of paradise and hell and he vehemently believes that whatever idea of paradise and hell was given to him by his father in his childhood is a farce, and that no such things exist.
On one night, Ismael meets Petra at a bar with whom he shares his thesis topic. Petra urges him to try a psychedelic drug called which transports a person to the spiritual world of the past as well as the future. In this trance – like state, Ismael meets a character called Chacha Khidr – an old man on a bicycle who tells him to go back to Pakistan as he has been chosen by destiny to save the world.
A flight ticket to Lahore in his room and a letter from a person called Pir Pul Sirat makes him finally go back.
Pakistan however has changed and seems unrecognizable. It has been converted to the Caliphate of Al – Bakistan. Cricket is no longer a gentleman’s game. It is a game of death and murders. suicide jackets are the latest fad among young kids. Any person suspected of being a non believer in Islam (Kafir) is punished and executed. In order to complete his mission, Ismael must pose as a true believer of Islam. But will he survive in order to penetrate the inner circle of the government and complete his mission?
Debutante author A.K Asif’s writing is confident, highly imaginative and ambitious. His command over the language as well as grammar is solid. Also, when you have an imaginative and ambitious plot, one needs to write it such that the readers can create a picture of sorts in their mind. Asif does that vividly and wonderfully.
For a hindu, this book was quite an enlightening and informative read. I came to know about various aspects of Islam which I never knew until now. As a satire, this book works pretty well. Asif imparts knowledge along with doses of humor.
Secondly, the father – son relationship is pretty well depicted. It shows how a strict father can affect the life of his son.
Also, the characterization of Ismael was the best thing for me. One can relate to him, his mannerisms, his train of thoughts.
Also, Asif succeeds in getting his readers to think how religion blinds us all, and what can happen if the control over power falls into the wrong hands.
Imagination is good, but over – imaginativeness often tends to get on your nerves, and that is what happens with this book. To create a world of 2050 definitely requires creativity, but here I felt the author goes overboard and over indulges his creative licence.
Also, there are parts of the book which are quite unreadable and cringeworthy. The love/lust/erotic portions were pretty much unnecessary. Few portions even left me confused. There could have been more clarity and less abstract writing.
Most importantly, the book wasn’t gripping throughout. There were portions which were highly dull and boring. The book again picks up towards the end, but to reach till there was an ordeal. An imaginative plot alone is not enough. You need crisp editing too. That is where this book majorly falters.
OVERALL, “HELL! NO SAINTS IN PARADISE” is definitely a different book from the usual novels we read routinely, both content wise and writing wise. However,it will not appeal to everyone. For me, it worked in some parts and didn’t at all work in some.
P.S – Special mention for the absolutely gorgeous cover design and feel.
Also, I received this book from Writersmelon in exchange of an honest and unbiased review.