Title: Silver Hair Sins

Author: Saumick Pal

Genre: Science Fiction, Visual Fiction

Silver Hair Sins is a futuristic story, set two centuries later where the world has a different politico-religious structure and the society is controlled by AI (Artificial Intelligence). A large part of the story is narrated through photographs.

The story is told through the family of Mary, Azad and Aasma and how life unfolds for them in a world where manipulation is rife but disguised.

The Book

Silver Hair Sins uses a handful of characters to make a sweeping judgement of humanity and religion two centuries down the line. When you are engrossed in the story, the first thing is relief that mankind has continued to flourish and reinvent itself. It has been able to circumvent the challenges thrown by the deeply divisive politics and religion that the world seems to be moving towards.

What works well

Silver Hair Sins is visual fiction which means that the narrative runs on parallel tracks of story through the written word and the story through photographs. While books include photographs and illustrations, the photos in Silver Hair Sins are ‘cinematic’, highly attractive and designed to hold the reader’s interest.

The issues raised in the book are very pertinent and an extrapolation of the religious, political and the societal issues that are present in the society today. It is interesting how the writer has created a scenario where these factors tip out of control so that the world order needs to be changed in order for humanity to survive.

The title, Silver Hair Sins, is quite intriguing and as I read on, seemed very apt. The concept of hair turning silver when one sins, either in deed or in thought can be frightening as also the world order where black haired men and women are considered superior to the ‘silvered’ ones.

The plot of the story is good and the twist at the end is chilling and satisfying to the reader for having reached the end.

The issues of dominance and subjugation, of patriarchy subverting women empowerment yet again, of a Big Brother kind of surveillance seem very right to take up. There is also the way events are misrepresented by state or a higher power, like the deaths of Akbar and Cadet Meera to manipulate the public consciousness that rings a bell.

The cover art is very good and apt for the theme of the book.

What does not work so well

The photographs which are an asset to the story sometimes break up the flow for the reader. I had to pause at every page to look at the picture, read the description and connect the words and this visual world. While it is true that the photographs have taken the storytelling to a completely new level, sometimes it was hard for me to understand the relevance of some of them. Also the description accompanying the photos is on a very different level from the narrative.

The characters seem cardboard cutouts of people. Their motivations, even from minute to minute are incomprehensible and at loggerheads. The dialogue needs work; most characters repeat their words as if they are only thinking aloud.

The plot is good but the way the twists are presented leave the reader confused. Most explanations come a little later after the events themselves, which is how suspense is built but the events themselves are not explained well at all. So, there were many places that I had a disconnect with the story.

There are a few inconsistencies in the story that felt jarring. Cadet Meera’s suicide mission even though she was contemplating an army career only a few hours ago or suicide by throwing themselves in front of a hovercraft sound a little out of place. Thankfully, these are little issues that do not have a bearing on the flow of the main story.

The colour Silver is used brilliantly for marking the sinners from the non sinners. However, the use of the colour nearly everywhere strips it of its negative connotation and creates confusion. Rain is mentioned as silver, so is moonlight while both these natural elements are not really threatening. Also, Silver is used extensively by state machinery and in state sponsored propaganda. People are afraid to have silver hair but proud to be have the implant of the silver chip. The colour silver treads grey territory quite often (pun intended).

Verdict

Read Silver Hair Sins for a different kind of storytelling, through words and photographs. It’s an interesting peek into a chilling future that mankind could be hurtling towards.

I got a copy of this book for an honest and unbiased review. This review is written as part of the Blogchatter Book Review Program.

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