Laha Sniffs The Scent of Redemption

New Delhi (India), June 15: As a nation that has seen sluggish growth in the genre of science fiction, one might sit back and consider what it truly means to have a unique Indian science fiction. Of course, there would be local settings and indigenous representation, along with the usual elements of sci-fi, such as futuristic concepts and a riveting, action-packed storyline. However, there’s an important aspect missing in modern science fiction: societal forecasting. There are problems in the present, and if we follow this trajectory, the future might see these problems escalate. It is these issues that are discussed frankly through science fiction. For instance, as European nations grew belligerent after the Great Recession, everyone feared the kind of totalitarian doom they were being pushed towards, similar to the warnings in Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” about authoritarianism and excessive state control. While contemporary sci-fi includes social elements, it often focuses on the problems of today rather than those of tomorrow.

Enter “The Scent of Redemption” by Shreyan Laha, an author who describes himself as self-taught in the genre. It is his fifth science fiction book and the first in the forthcoming “Redemption Series.” In “The Scent of Redemption,” Laha introduces us to Dr. Ronit Sarkar, a pediatrician convicted of intentional medical interference resulting in the death of a four-year-old. Ronit is sent to the planet Flarelix, place humans know little about, including its habitability. He is accompanied by Vidur, an AI-powered jailer who caters to the psychological needs of isolated prisoners.

The story follows Ronit’s journey into an entirely different realm, along with his struggles with self-acceptance, love, intoxication, humanity, and, above all, learning about the symbiosis between humans and nature. Environmental degradation continues at an unprecedented rate, with consequences like erratic weather changes and global warming posing significant dangers. “The Scent of Redemption” symbolically represents Mother Nature through Ashani and explains environmental decay through Ashani’s ongoing conversations with Ronit despite her deteriorating state. Ashani’s kinds are known as the zizanoids, plant-like beings that live and interact through an intricate, advanced network of root systems. Far more advanced than humans, the zizanoids choose a philosophical supremo to represent them.

Philosophical insights have never been explored through the sense of smell; it was always about what we see, think, feel, and touch. Through “The Scent of Redemption,” Laha taps into the uncharted waters of olfactory philosophy—something truly unique. Instead of overpowered superhumans in the guise of aliens, we encounter the wonderful possibilities of a cooperative, alternative nature. Instead of skyscrapers, we see dense forests; instead of dystopian plot twists, we breathe in fragrant, countryside air.

The novel also sheds light on Indian perfume history and the psychology of a man with deranged thought patterns. While “The Scent of Redemption” joins the list of novels advocating for environmental conservation, it stands out with a unique template of Indian science fiction that encompasses several subliminal layers.

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