A review of Sami Ahmad Khan’s alien invasion sci-fi thriller, Aliens in Delhi.
I think the thought first struck me in my teens when I was watching Independence Day, and one scene in particular that sparked it off. While America takes the lead in saving the world and taking the fight to the aliens, the Indians meanwhile, with nothing better to do, are shown praying to the Taj Mahal. A scene that has stayed with me since. Why, I thought to myself, does it always have to the American President in the thick of things, and not the Indian Prime Minister? Just for a change. Why can’t it be ISRO instead of NASA, and a fighter pilot from the Indian Airforce instead of a Marine pilot? Simply put, in what can be called as a case of ‘invasion envy’, why can’t someone have the aliens invade India for a change?
Earlier this year, I finally got my wish. In the form of Aliens in Delhi, by Sami Ahmad Khan.
A throwback to classic science fiction, Aliens In Delhi also blends in elements of a political thriller to deliver a no-nonsense, no-frills sci-fi story that unfolds over the course of three days of an invasion by a reptiloid alien race known as the Qa’haQ. But unlike Hollywood blockbusters, the weapon of choice of the aliens in this story isn’t laser guns and firepower, but rather the ubiquitous cellphones which are weaponised into gene-tampering mutagens.
Dr. Sami Ahmad Khan, to use the author’s name with title, holds a PhD degree in SF – so he’s not just a sci-fi author but also an SF researcher and scholar – and his love for pulp SF shows in the narrative style of Aliens in Delhi, and in the tone of writing. Written in uncomplicated prose, the book is unpretentious, to say the least, with the story and the narrative taking primacy above all other concerns, and unburdened with any other motive than to engross the reader via sci-fi. In fact, in his Author’s Note, Khan states that ‘This is an anti-highbrow text with just one aim – to tell a crazy story.’ And that it does, simply and quickly, clocking in at under 300 pages in the paperback edition.
Aliens in Delhi begins with the reptiloid aliens, the Qa’haQ, who after years of observing Earth, begin their invasion in Delhi by using cellphone radiation to mutate people into reptiles. From there on, it’s a non-stop series of interconnected threads – from an ISI agent in Kashmir along with a German investigative journalist and a RAW agent in Pakistan to the Command & Control Centre in the Indian Prime Minister’s office and the Oval Office of the American President to the Great Hall in Beijing. Also involved in all this and playing their part is the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) – to whom the book is dedicated to, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), DRDO, the Indian Air Force and more.
Also involved is an Illuminati-like secret cabal, The Military-Industrial Conglomerate, a new wonder element called Sinium, a human-alien hybrid and somewhere along the line we also find out who (or what) Osama Bin Laden really was & his true end game, and the secret of Chandrayaan II – all in the space of 72 hours of the alien invasion. Khan makes his story’s threads twist and turn, but does manage well to weave them all together into a coherent and satisfactory ending, throwing in some revelations on human evolution and alien backstory for good measure at the end of it all.
So if you’ve been looking for a science fiction novel from an Indian author, set in India; one that is fast-paced and gallops along from one chapter to the next; a fun read, Aliens in Delhi will tick all of these boxes for you. And as for this reader, it did finally deliver on the wish to see Indian being invaded by aliens and showing that Indians – here at least – can do more than just pray to a tomb when the world is in peril.
On that note, I sign off for this week and hope to see you back here again next weekend for the 73rd edition of New Worlds Weekly. Hope you enjoyed this week’s read, do let us have your feedback and suggestions via Facebook or Twitter – you can use the hashtag #NWWonFD, and your comments once you’re done reading Aliens in Delhi.
Live long and prosper, dear reader!