Shiva Kumar is coming to the Dolphin Bookshop on Thursday, Oct. 13
Manhasset resident Shiva Kumar released his first book, An Awakening, this past July. Kumar will be speaking about his new book at The Dolphin Bookshop on Oct. 13 at 6:30 p.m.
An Awakening is book one in Kumar’s science fiction fantasy trilogy, The Lanka Chronicles. The trilogy reimagines an old Indian Epic, The Ramayana by Valmiki. The book follows a classic hero’s journey in a 23rd-century galactic future. By combining science fiction and mythic fantasy, Kumar explores the story of Dharma, a man in his 60s who is the leader of the Federation of Indian Planets. Over three decades ago, Dharma fought in the Great Battle on the hidden planet Lanka, where many died and he lost his wife under mysterious circumstances. His past has caused him immense guilt and sorrow.
Dharma receives a secret message from the hidden planet, Lanka, and decides to set out on a mission in hopes of reuniting with his wife, Arya, and atoning for his past. The story is told from the point of view of Maya 1, the first sentient starship on which Dharma and his brother, Loki, board for their journey. Maya 1 is on her own voyage of discovery. Through observation and probing Dharma’s dreams and vision, she learns about his traumatic history and realizes her questions are linked to his mission.
In a press release from Kumar, the book is described as a “blend of galactic politics, interstellar cultures, generational trauma, spirituality, artificial intelligence, quantum physics and mythology.”
From a young age, Kumar has been interested in epics and mythologies of Hindu life. While his sole inspiration for this novel comes from The Ramayana, many other South Asian epics, Western epics and his own travels influence his creativity.
“The Ramayana is as important to the entire side of the eastern world as the western mythologies are in the western world,” said Kumar. “Everyone knows this story, and I wanted to use that to try and explore modern sensibility. How would those stories be told if they were today”.
“I grew up all over the world,” said Kumar. “I lived in London, Cairo and Bhutan. I went to boarding school in India, then came [to New York] for high school. I lived in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, then Long Island.”
Kumar has lived in Manhasset since 1996 and has a career in filmmaking and acting. In the world of filmmaking, Kumar focused on holocaust-related documentaries that aired on PBS, ABC and other worldwide networks. Around the time Kumar began writing his book, he got back into acting. He has played numerous minor roles in prominent TV shows like Quantico, Madame Secretary, and Law & Order SVU.
“Growing up and working in film productions, I never saw myself as a writer,” said Kumar. “The idea of writing a book, let alone a trilogy, is a daunting thing. It was in my head, but to tell myself that I’m going to do this took some sort of real-life crisis to think that you need to focus on a different area.”
In 2015 Kumar started writing and couldn’t stop. Kumar worked on what he now calls The Lanka Chronicles for two years. In 2017, he created a massive book, which became three books once he began editing.
“I didn’t know what it was going to be. I was just writing because I wanted to get this stuff that was in my head out there,” said Kumar.
Kumar’s fascination with mythologies has given him an expansive knowledge of infamous stories worldwide. In boarding school in India, Kumar came across a 25-volume encyclopedia of world mythologies.
“I read the entire thing, so I got to know the mythologies of every country. They are all really rich and interesting,” said Kumar. “But the Indian mythologies is something I grew up with, and my parents told me those stories, so I always knew I wanted to do something with those stories and in the western world, they are not very well known.”
By using the classic Indian epic, The Ramayana, in a science fiction fantasy mode, Kumar wishes to expose a group of people to something new.
“I’m hoping that after [people] read my story, they might go back to the original and go what is that about and see how deep that story is,” said Kumar.
“The perspective I am approaching the story from is an older man, looking back at his youth. He looks at the things that he did at a different time in a different way, and he realizes his mistakes, and he wants to atone; he wants redemption,” said Kumar. “[Dharma] wants to say that he has become a better man. I was at a similar place in my life, and I thought, do we look at everything we did in our youth and go, ‘that was excellent’ or ‘you were an idiot, and you made some really bad mistakes’? If you take any great hero of mythology, Odysseus, Samson, Achilles or Hercules, and ask them to look at their life, would they say I did everything perfectly? Probably not.”
People familiar with science fiction fantasy know how the stories throw you into the middle of the action, and that is what Kumar has done with his book.
“There are a lot of characters that come in and out, and over time you get to know who they are, and you get deep into an interesting story,” said Kumar.
Book one, An Awakening, has a lot of technology and explores futuristic culture. In book two, the characters crash on a planet, and none of their technology works. Kumar takes us back to a more fantasy-driven plot where the characters have to use bows and arrows, swords and spears. Book three brings everything back together in an epic conclusion.
An Awakening is now available for purchase on Amazon and will be sold in The Dolphin Bookshop. Visit thedolphinbookship.com for more information about the Oct. 13 event.