The cover was provocative.

It’s a plane, btw.

Bunker 13/ Aniruddha Bahal
NLB Call No.: BAH – [TH]
ISBN: 0571217419

I’d never expected a Military Thriller to come from Asia.

Which was why I picked up this book.

I give this book a 5 out of 5.

If there’s ever a Man Booker prize for military fiction, maybe this might be a strong contender. Or maybe not, ‘cos it’s a lot more exciting than many of the Man Booker prize winners!

I mentioned the Booker prize because this novel reminded me of Yann Martel’s “Life of Pi“. Maybe both novels have similarities: The main characters are Indian nationals, both stories feature characters who think Asian but act Western (or what we stereotype as “western culture”). And a twist in the plot at the end that gave me a mind-bend.

But I digress…

At the surface level, the plot in Bunker 13 can be simply put as: One Indian man’s thrill seeker’s perspective against a backdrop of war, sex, drugs.

But it’s a lot richer than that.

Plot: Your nickname is MM. You’re a writer for a magazine, and you specialise in military affairs. You volunteer for assignments like undergoing paratrooper training, and being posted to observe firsthand the counter-insurgency measures and tactics by the elite battle hardened units at the Indian-Pakistan border.

You hit the ground running from page one.

It’s action packed almost all the way. From trying to get a heroin high while parachuting off a military plane (yeah, unbelievable but plausible somehow), to firefights and raids deep in enemy territories, to organising rave parties, to meeting with the Russian mafia, to conducting a daring daylight raid on a jail to free a fellow conspirator, to risking his life to rescue a woman he loves.

I found the part describing an editorial meeting (the character, MM, is a writer) particularly funny. The writer’s equivalent of political and military maneouvers. You have to read it to appreciate it ‘cos I can’t do justice to that chapter, short of copying the entire chapter here.

It was clear from the start of the novel that MM is not a normal guy. In fact, he appears like a criminal from the start: shooting and peddling drugs, gun-running on an international scale. Yet as the novel develops, so does MM. I got a vague notion that he has some social conscience buried deep in his psyche.

A tortured soul, more scarred than what the author chose to reveal at the beginning.

Overall, the novel seems like a combination of clever writing and editorial work.

There are graphic sex scenes, but they are not vulgar. They somehow came across as highly appropriate for the novel’s setting, pace and style (conversely the scenes would be quite odd if it were in a Tom Clancy…)

It definitely has all the ingredients of a military thriller bestseller — sex, drugs, violence, love, heroics, espionage, war, wry humour.

And when you consider the background of the author, the plot becomes even more intriguing.


Highly entertaining stuff.