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November RainReviews

Review By Ratna Sinha (January 30 ,2008)

Producer of Baabul on Sony Entertainment Television ( wife of Anubhav Sinha, Director of Dus, Cash & Tathastu)

Rating: *****

i read Al Raines' book The PRAYER. I had read Al's earlier book NOVEMBER RAIN many years back. Then i did not know who Al was. The book had left a lasting impression on my mind although i did not recall the exact story. I am an avid reader and read a book almost every night.I am currently producing a show and in the process was meeting writers for the same. I happened to meet Mrinal (the better half of Al Raines - yes Al Raines is actually two authors writing as one - sorry to blow your secret guys) for the same reason. While talking one day i got to know she was the author of November Rain and i felt really glad to meet her. She then told me there was another book they (she and her husband Abhigyan had written). Over every script meetign we had i would pester her to give me a copy of the book. Finally she remembered to get it ....one day. Since i was caught up in work the book lay on my bed side table for many days. The day i got some time i started reading it. The next was to be busy too. I started reading the book with some expectations...half way down - the book started to get to me...i did not realise how late it was ....the book had started to spook me thoroughly....and then fear started setting in...i could neither read it for i was alone and started seeing things nor could i put it down ..for it was so engrossing...fear took over, so i put it down but then i got up and switched on every possible light in the house...to get out of the book i rummaged through some old things and pulled out an ARCHIE DIGEST... (how apt as The Prayer is set in Riverdale - believe me a very different riverdale from Archies) so i could go to sleep...i got up early next morning ..read up the book as fast as i could..to do that i postponed my first meetign of the day ..so that i did not have to get scared again in the night and also i had to had to finish the book to reach the end which is truly well written. The book unfolds like a screenplay and takes you through a very scary journey. i wish mrinal and abhigyan all the best and hope that the book is made into a great film...and if you like being scared and wish to explore the unknown do give PRAYER a shot.

Review By Anil Goel (Decenber 22 ,2007)

Management & Enablement, AO Direct Sales Channel (DSC)
Rating: *****

I don't want my money back. The prayer is the darkest book I have ever read. Wait a second ... Its also the scariest book I have ever read. Does Al Raines want something back? The slash between scariest/darkest makes my finding both to be true a double negative doesn't it?

My soul is intact ... Infact only stronger ...because it has been through a scary dark journey from which it has emerged unscathed.

You have to either be lying or not remembering hard enough if you tell me you don't go through life with a distinct, almost palable sense of fear.Every breathing second holds promise of death, destruction, horror and tragedy beyond words. We fear ... A darkness that we keep just beyond ...Separated by an imperceptible shield ... We pray to reinforce the shied ...to invoke daily its protective might ...we feel secure not because of what we are made of behind the shield but by the shield itself ... Poojas, havans, beadssn offerings, necklaces...the list is infinite...of bribes we offer the force to work for us...to keep the darkness at bay...to stop the coin from falling on thw wrong face every second providence tossed it to decide its next choice for us...

The Prayer is almost a sadistic room in which I am thrust along with the protagonist and our walls brought down ... Its almost a gleeful romp through terrified minds that blend in helplessness as daarkness preys unboundedly

I hope you either have something inside you that I have or you want your money back. If you have what I have you will possibly emerge with more conviction. If you don't have it and you don't want your money back I am not sure what faith will hold you steady and confident as you emerge with the realisation that terror, horror and darkness is closer than you ever thought ...its a nuclear bomb waiting for the right reaction to be allowed ...inside your very head.

Review By Pallavi Bhattacharya

Rating: ***

The Prayer Fiction
By Al Raines
Published by Undercover Utopia
202 pages
Rs 249/-

[Pallavi Bhattacharya is a freelance journalist with published articles in Outlook, Rave, Readers' Digest, India Today Plus, Hindustan Times etc. Pallavi relishes the freedom of expression through her journalistic pursuits, which to her is means of self-discovery and understanding life]

This recently launched novel by Al Raines comes with the label ‘the first ever horror novel from India’ on its cover. Author of the cult supernatural novel November Rain unfolds yet another spine chilling tale through The Prayer.

The novel is set in Riverdale- a town otherwise well known in Archie’s comics. However Al Raine’s Riverdale is not at all a mirthful town as it is haunted by an evil prayer. Prayers are meant to give hope and heal. Unfortunately a prayer bearing a Wiccan curse is being forwarded to the inboxes of the citizens of Riverdale. This sinister prayer comes with the pledge that if read before bedtime it’ll make the reader’s dreams come true. By ‘dreams’ the prayer doesn’t refer to ‘wishes’ but ‘what the person dreams of when asleep’. Not all dreams are sweet, nightmares plague one’s consciousness when in slumber and some of those nightmares may indeed be of death. Reminiscent of the film The Ring in which every person who sees an evil video is supposed to die, in The Prayer whoever has a nightmare of death after reading the prayer loses a loved one or dies. Life soon becomes a living nightmare with the characters in the book desperately trying to stay awake over cups of coffee to prevent themselves from falling asleep and dreaming in the process. Weariness however catches up and before they know it the characters are asleep and having ominous nightmares which will soon turn to reality once they wake up.

Eight-year-old Jamie found this prayer on a parchment on the windshield of his family’s car. He read that if he sent this prayer to seven people his dreams would come true. He diligently forwarded it with the hope that his separated parents reconciled. The characters affected by this forwarded prayer are shown to be within six degrees of separation.

The author does claim to be inspired by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkin’s theory of memetics. Meme is Dawkin’s unit of human cultural evolution analogous to the gene. The Prayer file not only infests the computers of the recipients like a virus, annoyingly popping up on screen just refusing to be deleted but adhering to the principles of memetics it seems to mutate in the brains of the recipients to be ready to jump to new vehicles. Adhering to Dawkin’s theory there seems to be a power struggle between the hosts (recipients of the prayer) and The Prayer which plays the role of a gene in this case. Dawkin’s Selfish Gene theory says that the genes usually win without a fight. Only if the host is intelligent enough to realize its interests can there be a true conflict. As the prayer recipients begin to die one by one, the surviving members diminish their six degrees of separation to bring their heads together to solve their common problem by consolidating all their dreams to one dream and deciphering its symbolisms.

The authors do not seem to delve into well known dream symbolisms established by Carl, Jung and Freud. Rather they give the dreams a unique Wiccan supernatural touch. However Wicca even if practiced in scary rooms with black paint and no bulbs as shown in the novel may not necessarily always be ominous in its effect. The authors go on to show that Wicca is not synonymous to evil. ‘Evil lurks in our minds’ the novel says. ‘For those whose hearts are true, the light always shines on them.

The authors also claim to have drawn inspiration from Edgar Allen Poe. There are special references to Poe’s poems A Dream Within a Dream and indirectly to The Raven. The circulating prayer of the novel in fact reads very similar to Poe’s poem A Dream Within a Dream. Poe’s poem questions the thin line between reality and fantasy with the rhetorical question as to whether everything is just a dream within a dream. In the novel fantasy becomes reality thereby becoming synonymous.

The characters of the novel see a raven in their dreams. Poe’s raven seems to ominously foretell that he will soon fly out of the poet’s life just like his friends have flown away from him along with his previous hopes. Similarly as the characters lose their friends, gradually they lose hope but ironically a mysterious character called Ravenclaw, the worshipper of the Goddess of Dreams can redeem them from the evil effect of the prayer.

Structure-wise The Prayer seems to follow the typical five-act play in pyramidal shape consisting of an exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and denouement. The novel is extremely visual. The novel has stark horrifying images which are sure to captivate the viewers if made into a film. For instance pieces of glass cut and instantly kill a woman as she’s rising from underwater. A lifeless bloody corpse is shown clutching on to a carving knife- the victim had butchered himself. A man on life support suddenly springs up like a cobra just before he breathes his last. These stark and grotesque images may make excellent shots for a horror movie.

The Prayer somehow reminds us of the works of Manoj Night Shyamalan. Like Shyamalan’s stories, The Prayer is a supernatural tale (with both foreign and Indian characters) set on foreign shores.

Other than being a supernatural horror novel The Prayer beautifully explores the lives of Alcoholic Anonymous members in a foreign first-world-nation among whom the prayer is circulated. Some of them are trying to regain control in their lives sometimes by aiming for perfection when in reality they are following the path of self-destruction and returning to the bottle.

The novel ends with ample scope for a sequel to follow. Let’s hope that Al Raines is soon back with an equally scary The Prayer- 2.

Review By Yogesh K Vyas(November 5 ,2007)

Rating: *****

The Prayer is a book I stumbled upon during my monthly sojourns into the underbelly of Amazon where sometimes one discovers uncut diamonds. This book by Al Raines caught my attention because someone had out it as the no.1 on his Listmania list of Scariest Books Ever. Ahead of The Shining. Either that meant an outlandish claim or it was going to be the best Halloween read of my life. It turned out to be more than that. Halloween Book it definitely is but the power of the guy's imagery is too strong.

The back cover claimed it was a new style called Cinema In Words that raines uses to tell this strange hypnotic tale of destruction of the spirit even as your dreams come true. It indeed was true. I saw the whole story like I was watching a film. And the book moves at such a pace that I finished it in about 150 mins which is the length say of a longing Holywood movie e.eg. Titanic.

The Prayer to my mind is going to be labelled as one of the geatest Horror Novels of all time. It might even gain literary value in time for the unique syle Raines adopted to tell this phenimenally original story. You might think it is about some evil prayer that wreaks havoc through some mumbo jumbo spells etc - but that's not what you discover. There are references to Wicca - strong references and Witchcraft is one of the motifs of this macabre tale but there are no ghosts, odd creatures or devils etc - all there is is your mind and the games that our minds play. The horror is centred around the premise that - you might wish all your dreams to come true - but if they do that can be the most horrifying thing of your life. For not all our dreams are happy or good. The dark side lurks inside all of us and when it finds a vehicle it can destroy all that we have. Al those we love.

I am still scared. I don't trust my own shadow anymore. I look into my wife's eye and wonder what does she truly want? And if her wishes are granted what would that do to this little American Dream that we have built from scratch in this middle size American Town? May be she thinks the same about me. Raines has fundamentally changed the way we look at our dreams.

Halloween Book, Horror Novel, Evil Prayer, a book about Witchcraft, deals with Wicca are all true descriptions of this book but the truest is - It is a book that scares you to death because it shows you at our deepest core what we human are capable of spawning! You can't wish this book away because - you don't believe in Ghosts or vampires. The Prayer is the most realistic Horror Novel I have read.

I will give it ***** out of ******. A perfect score. For a near perfect book.

Review By Deepali Rai (October 22 ,2007)

Rating: *****

I always thought realistic events are more horrifying than things we think couldn't happen.In this book the author suceeded in making those unreals seem very real.The best thing about this book is the speed of its composition.Also it makes a fresh read as it is not approached too much as a literary effort.

It's a gripping novel, exceptionally good book. It delivers the chills it promises by creating believable, nightmarish atmosphere and characters.

Taste this novel for the simple pleasure of horror it brings.

If this book doesn't scare you, you're already dead!

When you're through,see if you can still tell yourself that the shadow in the corner is 'only' a shadow.

Now I’m curious to see what Al Raines does next.


The Indian Express,Wednesday December12, 2007

Kenneth Lobo

In the under-explored world of fiction surrounding the eerie and the bizarre,Al Raines(the husband and wife team of Abhigyan and Mrinal jha) have carver a niche for themselves.A decade-and-a half ago,their debut novel,November Rain,was successfully adapted into the hit television serial Mano Ya Na Mano and this month their second novel,The Prayer hits the stands. Set in Riverdale-Archie’s comic town with nothing remotely funny about it-the novel explores themes like reconciliation,desire and man’s desperate attempt to set things right,believing in the elements that are beyond his control.That hope is flagged by a prayer that,on the first glance,is a gateway to deliverance.Unfortunately,chanting the prayer releases a wiccan curse,forwarded in misplaced trust to further needy souls. Think of John Carpenter’s The Thing in an online context and you’ll get an inking of what the novel is about.The writer belive the book works because they are genuinely interested in the paranormal."Good Horror should come from belief,not because it’s just another genre to dable in.If you look at the work of directror like BP singh serial like Aahat look fake because the director doesn’t believe in ghosts,"says Abhigyan."We on the other hand are constantly looking for things to be spooked by. There is always a supernatural air to reality,we’r just not able to see or hear it," he says. So convinced are the authors about their work and heart stopping craft that there is a money back gurantee if you aren’t spooked out."We thought that it was a good way to make the point that The Prayer is genuinely scary stuff.Its a bit like when horror films were released for the first time they would keep ambulances outside the cinema,when the Omen was released.for instance,"says Abhigyan. The duo is also part of the rare breed of co authors-a detail that forced them to adapt a pseudonym with an international feel to it."Fifteen Years ago when we first wrote November Rain,publishing houses said Indian authors don’t write stuff like this.And Penguin had a two year waiting list.We self-published our book, investing all our finances.But we chose to go with one name-the last two letters of Mrinal and Kunal(his nickname)and surname of our favourite advertising textbook authors,"he says. They are convinced that there is an audience for original writing. "Forced writing is the worst.What’s happening across the world now is that editor are writing books instead of authors.But writers must develop their own style.A lot of editors asked us why our sentence are fragmented. But we said,everyday speech doesnot contain full sentences."the beach i went....’is enough to give me an idea of what happened," he says.A month after The Prayer was published,no one requested for a refund is perhaps indication that they are headed in the right directions.