An interesting notion behind the name ‘Plutarch Heavensbee’ from The Hunger Games.

I’m currently reading the book ‘The man in the High Castle’ by Philip K Dick and I happened to stumble upon something which made me realize the interesting nature of the name of a character Plutarch Heavensbee from The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.


Valerie Estelle Frankel does a more detailed analysis of the names in the trilogy in her book ‘Katniss the Cattail: An Unauthorized Guide to Names and Symbols in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games‘. But so far, I haven’t found this explanation anywhere.

**Contains spoilers** (if you still haven’t read or watched The Hunger Games series!)

To give a brief background about the character Plutarch Heavensbee, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, may he rest in peace, was introduced as a Head Gamemaker in the second book ‘Catching Fire’ as a replacement for Seneca Crane, the Head Gamemaker from the first book (if you didn’t count Heavensbee’s brief presence as a judge in the scoring of tributes in the first book).

Image result for plutarch heavensbee

He had designed the arena for the 75th Hunger Games. To be assigned such important task shows that he holds the trust of President Snow. But by the end of the second book, it would be revealed that he was a part of the rebellion that infiltrated the Capitol to rescue the tributes to help and support their cause. He played a major role in the third book in projecting a colorful image of the tributes and the rebellion. Later, he helped the rebel team to infiltrate the Capitol by explaining the traps.

Coming back to the topic at hand, in the book ‘The Man in the High Castle’ chapter 3, in a conversation between Mr. Baynes and a modern artist Alex Lotze, the latter used a word ‘Plutocracy’ which I had to look up. It turned out to be a form of society under the rule or control of the wealthy (but not an established form of government like democracy or capitalism). There are no such societies currently, but a few existed in the past. I was amazed to find out that it was also called ‘Plutarchy’.

Plutarchy. Plutarch Heavensbee. See?! That cannot be just a coincidence. If you still couldn’t make the connection, let me make it simple for you. The character was the antithesis of the principle after which it was seemingly named. The main concept behind the plot of Hunger games was the oppression of the poor by the wealthy. Or to paraphrase it, the control of the society by the wealthy Capitol. And Plutarch, who was initially with the Capitol joins the rebellion and fought the Capitol and, in essence, fought the principle of Plutocracy or simply Plutarchy. Sadly, it was not mentioned in the books why he made the switch. Or whether he was with rebellion, to begin with. If you ask me, I think it takes a hell lot of time to infiltrate the upper echelons of President Snow. But District 13 survived underground for 75 years without anyone knowing, so you never know.

The other story (from the book) behind the name might reveal a similar characterization (which can also be found in the article by Miriam Krule in the Slate’s culture blog), but I found this contradicting nature fascinating. Is it deliberate or just a coincidence? Only Suzanne Collins knows.


Book Audits: “The Battery: How Portable Power Sparked a Technological Revolution” by Henry Schlesinger


A few weeks back, I was in dire need of a battery and searched my whole house twice to find one, but couldn’t. Eventually bought one the next day. Co-incidentally, on the same day, found this book in our college library when browsing the shelves. On any other day, I would have overlooked this book. On that particular day, it caught my attention and I started reading it. And I was very glad that I did.
I was highly skeptical about the book (I endured an Electrochemistry course during my Master’s) but the author did a good job of making it interesting enough to keep the reader engaged. I wish I had read it before the electrochemistry episode, but better late than never. Even though the book is about batteries, there are significant detours about the ‘new’ technologies that used batteries and stories behind their emergence (telegraphs, transatlantic telegraphic line, radio, watches, transistors…).
By the end of the book, I’m a little wiser about batteries and their evolution than I was before. Next time I hold a battery in my hand, I would definitely take a moment to awe at the efforts that were put in achieve the current compact form from its initial design of Layden jar which harnessed static electricity, through the voltaic pile, a stack of electrodes and the galvanic cells with sloshing electrolytes to the modern dry cells packing in more power to meet the increasing energy demands of the technology-rich and energy-hungry generation. Although the battery development had plateaued over the last two decades, considering the current energy scenario, I guess there will be another surge (scientific community predict otherwise.)
I would recommend this book to anyone who’s interested in knowing the historical background of everyday things.

Book Audits: “My Inventions and Other Writings” by Nikola Tesla

Book Audits: “My Inventions and Other Writings” by Nikola Tesla

The current educational system is teaching what to think instead of how to think. We set boundaries upon ourselves without even asking why. Reading this book made me question that.
Reading this nearly 100-year-old book (98 years, actually) changed my view about certain things which we take for granted.

Autobiography of this scintillating inventor who owns 700 patents is . . . I wouldn’t say inspiring. Despite his inventions and their impact on the modern society, his name is known to a handful, unlike the household name of Edison. He died in a hotel room where he spent most of his last days, with debts. It’s depressing to some extent. But it encourages us to think crazy, beyond boundaries.
The book tells you about his passion for science and innovation. It tells you about the out of box thinking of Tesla, which may, at times, seem spectacularly absurd. Some topics are quite unfathomable for me. (I don’t have a degree in electrical engineering.) But others were fascinating.
He doesn’t shy away from telling his worst experiences and failures. He even talked about philosophy, the concept of Karma, even though he didn’t use that term.
He was too ahead of his time. He predicted many things in the book, which would have seemed utterly ridiculous to his contemporaries. But some of those ideas have been realized and used extensively in the current world. So, who’s to say that the rest won’t be realized in future?

In Tesla’s words: “The scientific man does not aim at an immediate result. He does not expect that his advanced ideas will be readily taken up. His work is like that of a planter – for the future. His duty is to lay the foundation for those who are to come, and point the way.”

Book Audits: “Incognito: Mythos, Logos & an Enigma called Love” by Praveer


I’m really disappointed that this book wasn’t a hit. Such an awesome concept, despite what the cover page might have you believe. I was also really surprised that this was a debut. It’s about the conflict between science and religion, with an underlying story of a conflict about the right way of religion.
The author tried to emulate Dan Brown with Indian mythology (that’s the impression I got. All the major ingredients of Brown’s book are present: a symbologist, a falsely accused main character, two age old institutions fighting each other etc.) and was halfway there.
I enjoyed reading the book, revisiting a few the mythological stories and even learning something new. I liked the thought process of the characters and certain deductions. The use of Punya’s past events to nudge the main characters in the right direction was also good. That gave the author a chance to explore Punya’s love story. The author did a very good job in both the love story and the current treasure hunt. Maybe ‘hunt’ was not the correct word as it was mostly brainstorming by the main characters and not action packed fights and chases (that’s fine with me).
The love saga between Punya and Dhrishti was very good. Especially the chapter 27 (Punya’s mail to Dhrishti) was my favorite and resonated a lot with my experience.

All those good points aside, this book got a very sloppy editor or none at all. There were so many spelling and grammatical errors that I had to make an effort to continue reading. Sometimes Punya was referred to as ‘her’ and Vaidehi as ‘him’. (I don’t blame the author for this because English is not the first language for us Indians, but it’s the duty of the editor to get rid of errors.) I mentioned
There were places where connectivity was missing. Like how did the villain know what Punya and Vaidehi discussed?
The major issue was that villain didn’t get enough time. He hardly appeared for two chapters but was supposedly a mastermind behind the whole plot. He lacked conviction which prevents the reader from connecting with him. A proper handling of this character would have boosted the plot a lot, especially since the bad guys and good guys fall in a morally gray area with a potential of both being right in their beliefs. Instead, the villain spouts some hateful dialogues and wants to destroy something for arbitrary reasons.
And the most annoying thing (for me) was the use of single quotes. The author had a lot of and very good quotable sentences. In fact, too many. And for some reason, he felt the need to point each and every one of them out by using single quotes. As a reader, I find that highly distracting. It’s like you are watching a movie and the narrator is sitting beside you, talking to you in between about his insights into love, life, society and other bazillion things, sometimes rolling his (or her) eyes. It was like footnotes in a textbook but placed in between the text. No offense to anyone; they were good, deep and thoughtful.
Okay, it would’ve been fine if it was just that. But the author also used single quotes to tell the reader the thoughts of characters. Highly confusing. It’s sometimes very difficult to understand whether it’s the character thinking or the narrator talking to you.
And why did Mridul come in? What did his character accomplish?
In some places, the storytelling seemed a bit forced rather than a free flow. But I discount him that.
I’m not deriding the author. I can’t write a book like this. I just mentioned these so that he (or anyone else) might learn from this about how readers think. Especially since the climax sort of indicates the possibility of a sequel. I’m just angry and sad that such a good concept wasn’t utilized/appreciated properly. I’m giving 4 stars for his effort and thought, and I don’t want to drag down the rating.
And I’m looking forward to reading his next book.

Book Audits: 03:02 by Mainak Dhar


Definitely a goodread. I’m so glad that the author had chosen something other than the cliched  zombies or epidemics for this book.

The story narration was so engrossing that I was able to seamlessly step into the shoes of the main character. I didn’t even read the blurb for the fear of spoilers and it was worth it. The beginning had just the right amount of pace and suspense so as to keep the reader intrigued. 

The story was a very good blend of action, emotion, love (not romance). There were moments when my blood boiled, my eyes rained, my heart raced with fright and ached with a pang of jealousy and pain of loss. The absence of steamy, hot scenes accentuates the author’s confidence in the story to tie down readers.

This might be one of the reasons I was able to connect with this book so much: as a child (even in my engineering), whenever a class was boring, I would venture off into my imagination where a group attacks our class and I would fight them heroically. That is what the main character did in this book.

Some may say that the protagonist having so many resources was not realistic. But let me tell you this, if he didn’t have them, the book would’ve ended before it even began. And I was engrossed enough to not bother questioning the veracity of the technical details mentioned and that’s what I care about ultimately.

What really bugged me after completing the book was what happened to suri. He filled in for the antagonist for the first half and dropped off the radar after that.

And one thing I really liked about this story was the protagonist didn’t carry the whole burden of carrying the story forward it even for that matter, ending it, thereby not needing to break out of the reasonable reality of a fictitious story.

Book Audits: The Bridge by Rebecca Rogers Meher

A promising premise. That is not new to me, but I was happy with how I felt while reading the book. Even though the ending is predictable, I was a bit intrigued how the author was going to achieve that.

Good points: revealing the background stories slowly throughout the story, slow buildup of romance. The erotic scenes were both sensual and touch and go fashion, not going into immense details. The climax was unpredictable for me, although there was a small hint somewhere earlier.

The author could’ve done a better job of exploring the ‘why’ part (why the charterers are doing what they are doing?) rather than have the characters repeatedly say the same thing over and over to make it seem okay. There was a tiny bit of stereotyping (rich and handsome hero) which the story would’ve fared the same without.

Moral of the story: Everyone of us have our own problems, but all we need is some love and someone to love.

Book Audits: Apt Pupil


The author cannot be more correct when he wrote these words.
‘Oh, one thing just followed another,’ Todd said. ‘That’s really how it happened. One thing just… followed another. As stupid as it sounds, that’s just what happened. That’s all there was to it.’
Although the above lines could fit well in a love story, they explain ‘Black serendipity’ in this book.

This story starts when two characters, one in waning stage of life and the other in his waxing stage, meet and goes on to depict the effect they had on each other. Both hide their horrid true natures with amiable/acceptable facades to blend in, but each brings out the desires buried deep down in the other.

I was able to breeze through the first half, but the second half proved slightly difficult to swallow because of the generous sprinkle of complex profanities and a little gore (I have a very vivid imagination). Todd’s behavioral transition from mumma’s boy to rebellious teenager to psychopath is very smooth, although repugnant. This story reminds me that we are always just a whisker away from self-annihilation.

To put it in King’s words, my experience of reading this book was like “an unsuspecting bite into a piece of tropical fruit which, you realized (a second too late), had only tasted so amazingly sweet because it was rotten”.

Book Audits: Slumgirl Dreaming


While I respect and appreciate Rubina’s work in movies, my opinion below is solely regarding this book.
Reading this book sitting in a comfy chair, taking breaks in between to have food and snacks can only make me experience very little of what is written in the book (That doesn’t mean you have to go to slum to read it). It is about the journey of a slum girl towards achieving her dreams (duh! It’s in the name.) I like to think that I have some degree of empathy, but I felt this story to be too whiny and narration to be borderline narcissistic (she’s just a kid, I know). The actual effect the story would have had was dwarfed because of the childish way it was narrated in. Instead of feeling sorry for the kid living in the slum, I felt a little bit irked at the constant wishful thinking (maybe I too was like that when I was a kid, but lost it in the process of growing up). But her sense of wonderment shows the depravity of contact with the external world and also refreshes the reader’s sense of wonderment. Most of us are used to wonderful things but fail to appreciate them (like basic necessities and small comforts).
In the book, her talent was projected rather as a gift she was born with, thereby undermining it. Like everything was being set in place for her and she just have to grab the opportunity presented (much like the story of the film). This precludes the book from being categorized as inspirational. The ending seemed kind of pleading for help. As one proceeds towards the end, one can observe that reality dawns upon the protagonist, like people forgetting their promises, being deceived by the middlemen among others. But she didn’t let this crush her dreams. The girl proceeds to live her life towards fulfilling her dreams and ambitions.
On the whole, this book is a nice (auto)biographical account of a slumdog (I couldn’t resist 🙂 ) achieving success and reaching stars, with a message of hope (verbatim): If a slum kid can win an Oscar, then a slumdog can surely become a millionaire.

Book Audits – The Secret of Dreams


This is a brief discourse addressed to the uninitiated on different types of dreams and their significance in the physical world with ample instances that bolster the thesis. To a non-believer, it may seem like a bunch of utter bull crap, since there was no scientific evidence except for the word of a few who experienced the things discussed. Yet, some cases were persuasive enough for the hesitant lot to sway their opinion. One has to read it with interest or open mind to keep oneself from fling away the kindle or pc (this is a kindle edition). Audio book is also available for free (provided by Librivox).
So, read it for a change from your routine, to open the door to infinite possibilities and to keep the flame of ‘wonder and mystique in this scientific world (where existence requires proof)’ in your inner child alive instead of whiling away time by crushing confectioneries or endlessly running on railway tracks 😛 .

Book Audits – The Bachelor of Arts


A wonderful read. I felt close to the plot than many other stories I have read. RK Narayan wrote stories that are closer to the hearts of common people.
Literature reflects the norms of the contemporary society. From Narayan’s story, I gather that the human nature didn’t change between then and now, but some societal customs had changed. For example, youngsters were rebellious even then and child marriages are curbed now. Although this was not my first encounter with child marriage, I’m surprised by the callous reality ( 😛 ) of the situation (maybe I should talk to my grandparents more often) since I witnessed it through Narayan’s words.
Narayan made me fall in love, broke my heart and then made me fall in love again. That is ultimately the distilled message of the story. This also made me realize the veracity in his words: “If people didn’t read stories, they wouldn’t know there was such a thing as love”. Even his words about friendship were and are true.
The struggle of a college student to complete the syllabus for exams and his distractions, the plight of orthodox parents of a lovestruck youth, the strife of a heartbroken lover, his reinvention as a man and falling in love again, and many more emotions and relations were written elegantly and succinctly. Kudos to Narayan.