The Calcutta Chromosome: A Novel of Fevers, Delirium & Discovery
It begins in a near future New York City, when Antar, a low-level programmer and data analyst for a large bureaucratic concern, comes upon the lost and battered I.D. card of a man he once knew—a man who vanished without a trace some where in the teeming excess of Calcutta, India, several years before. Strangely compelled, Antar initiates a search into the facts behind the disappearance of the enigmatic L. Murugan, and is unwittingly drawn into a bizarre alternate history of medical science.
Leaping backward in time, we join Murugan in Calcutta in 1995, as he follows the twisted threads of science, counter-science and ritual back a hundred years further to the laboratory of Ronald Ross, the British scientist who discovered how malaria is transmitted to humans. Obsessed with the weird, fortuitous coincidences that led to Ross’ groundbreaking discovery, Murugan has stumbled upon evidence of an impossible ongoing experiment in controlled destiny, protected by a powerful unseen society that moves the world in secret and in silence.
Suddenly, every fact hitherto known can no longer be trusted, for everything has been revealed to be other than it appears. In this steamy, overcrowded city of clashing cultures and hidden faces, L. Murugan has opened a Pandora’s Box that carefully orchestrated death and misdirection have long kept shut. And the truth that is revealed will have momentous con sequences—for Murugan, for Antar, for a troubled female journalist and an exquisite Indian celebrity…for everyone and everything human.
The Calcutta Chromosome is one of those books that’s marketed as a mainstream thriller even though it is an excellent science fiction novel (It won the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award). The main character is a man named Antar, whose job is to monitor a somewhat finicky computer that sorts through mountains of information. When the computer finds something it can’t catalog, it brings the item to Antar’s attention. A string of these seemingly random anomalies puts Antar on the trail of a man named Murugan, who disappeared in Calcutta in 1995 while searching for the truth behind the discovery of the cure for malaria. This search for Murugan leads, in turn, to the discovery of the Calcutta Chromosome, which can shift bits of personality from one person to another. That’s when things really get interesting.