found myself off a quiet little street in noisy big Delhi last week, inside a nookish bookshop. I was looking for a fashion magazine for a friend, not thinking I’d find something for myself. But there on the shelf was a used copy of Gods of War, Indian sci-fi by Ashok Banker. The woman shop owner was letting her daughter (she must have been all of twelve, cute-as-a-button, and giving us bold loud Yankees sidelong glances) work the transaction. She counted my change back very precisely, unlike the stores stateside where they just dump it into your palm, unable to work the “math” of the thing. Anyway, I enjoyed the sale.
But not nearly as much as I enjoyed the book.
Finished up a rather laimo fantasy novel in the airport. Tossing that into the bag for later review, I then cracked open Banker’s novel. And it starts off in a whirlwind. Without going into detail (wait for the review for that), I watched the Earth get destroyed and five individuals selected to partake in a God-backed mission of critical importance. The journey begins. I was all in.
Somewhere over the Atlantic some sort of meal came. I set the book somewhere and ate my tiny fare off my tiny tray in my tiny space. My wife, suffering a throat cold (which she has since generously shared with me) asked for a cup of ice. It sat there, unused. I napped a bit. Then the stew came back to clear. Away went my tray, then her tray and in the midst of all this, over went her cup of ice and melt, right into my lap.
I brushed it to the floor (where it lay in big icy cubes) and did my best to clean my lap. The stew was gone by then, the ice melting, so I scooped it up and walked it forward, looking for a dump – had to go all the way up to the forward galley, two sections up, to find a trash bucket. Finally back to my seat. In an attempt to ignore my chilly willie I took a cramped, restless nap, waking up an hour later.
Time to read.
Where’s my book?
We looked on the floor. Between the seats. In the overhead. In the seat pocket (multiple times). Checked the floor around us, earning all sorts of indignant stares. And all I could think of during my fruitless search was how much I’d been enjoying the story, how rich the characters were, and how the actual physical product and I had a bond, the whole Delhi-back-street-shop-blushing-child thing. Getting another copy off Amazon just wouldn’t do.
So I was figuring that it had likely gone into the trash with the trays.
Went back and talked to the stews in the rear galley (where the trash had gone) but they seemed unlikely to root through dozens of bags of rubbish just for me. “Let me see what I can do,” one of them said. I returned to my seat and a minute later she appeared, going seat to seat all along that section of cabin, asking about the book. Yeah, fat chance, I thought. You just don’t want to go through the trash.
“Sir, is this it?” she asked, four rows up. Gods of War! Turns out a woman found it on the floor and didn’t think anything of it. It was just lying there under her feet. Somehow it had likely gone on the floor during the ice-caving and passing feet had soccered it forward, perhaps. Anyway, I hugged that book like it was a long-lost lover (book readers will understand), thanked the stew, thanked the lady (for what? No idea. I was just happy to have it back). And then I returned to my seat, cracked the worn cover, and slipped back into the story of the five, following an elephant god across the featureless plains of a null-space world…