Reviewed by Randeep Wadehra

Confession of a murderer 
by Joseph Roth Vinayak Publications. 
Pages 223. Rs 325.

WHEN the Soviet Union disintegrated, and even before that, the western media had been peddling horror stories, viz., spying on citizens, people disappearing mysteriously never to be heard of again, all pervading repression, exploitation etc. This book, first published in 1937, gives us a glimpse of the Czarist Russia—where things were as bad, if not worse.

He was still a lad when Semjon Golubchik learnt that he was an illegitimate child of Prince Krapotkin and not of the forester to whom his mother was married. Therefore, he decides to confront his biological father and demand his rights. In the process, he gets arrested and is forced to disown his claims. Later on, he joins the notorious Ochrana, the Czar’s secret police that spies on Russian citizens a la the Soviet KGB. Thence starts a life with which Semjon is not really comfortable: spying on people and engineering their departure to Siberia or the gallows. His love affair with Lutetia, a French mannequin, brings him into a confrontation with his half-brother that ends in violent denouement. It is a straightforward tale told with candor by the protagonist in first person.

Cyberabad Days
by Ian McDonald.
Pages 313. Rs 350.

Automaton Plaguemakers not only destroy standing crops but also poison soil and water for the generations to come, airborne drones seek and wipe out hostile targets, cats are actually intelligent missiles which explode on reaching pre-assigned destinations or if confronted with opposition, hi-tech gizmos send text and pictures direct to one’s brains, armies of robots, futuristic warfare, thrills, sex and pathos would please the sci-fi aficionados. But wait a minute. Just have a look at the settings for the seven stories in this collection.

Suicide squads and guerilla attacks, internecine warfare among states that were formerly parts of a united country, US-led Coalition stepping in to restore peace and rebuild the nation ... Lebanon? Iraq? Afghanistan? No dear reader, this is India, aka Cyberabad, circa 2050, where artificial intelligence rules the roost and which has splintered into several warring states that struggle to grab scarce natural resources, especially water. The Bharat of yore has shrunk to the size of what is euphemistically referred to as the cow belt, viz Bihar-UP, where the traffic is chaotic with cows snarling it up further and Varanasi’s burning ghats pollute the air and water, as ever. Hindus are doing what Muslims had become notorious for 2000 AD onwards, viz terrorism and anarchist violence.

Ever since India’s Independence, the West has been predicting its failure as a nation-state, only to be proved wrong repeatedly. Unable to reconcile to India’s success story segments of its intelligentsia can’t help fantasizing, as this crafty, subversive verbiage indicates.

The Seven Secrets of Influence
by Elaina Zuker.
Pages xx+259. Rs 399.

As Zuker states in this book, influence is something which you either have or don’t. It can be subtle or quite brazen. Sometimes, it can be cataclysmic – transforming a nation’s fortunes as did Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (when he met her, Abraham Lincoln reportedly remarked, "So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war!").

But this book is about less dramatic but very important aspects of influence in our daily lives, especially the workplace. It describes influence as a positive process that changes a person’s attitude or behavior. It enables you to get someone do what you want without exerting authority. Therefore, influence is the ability to achieve an end result.

The "seven secrets" are, in fact, this book’s seven chapters that give exhaustive details of how to set goals and achieve them by using influence, depicting several scenarios to illustrate various real life situations that a manager might come across.