Chaturanga is the story of an ordinary American boy who embarks on an extraordinary journey to Central Asia. Fourteen-year-old Patrick Eaton was raised on the amazing tales of his forefathers, each of whom were intrepid explorers in their own times. But here in the twenty-first century, Patrick seriously doubts whether he will have a similar opportunity. The world is just too small now… and all the frontiers are gone.
On his last day of middle school, Patrick anticipates spending another ordinary summer with his grandfather. But when he arrives home, news of a family misfortune compels him to reconsider his life and the people he cares about. And like all hardships, this one has a silver lining… Patrick is offered the incredible opportunity to accompany his geologist father on a business trip to Azerbaijan. The night before they leave, his grandfather hands him a mysterious gift – making Patrick promise not to open it until his journey is under way. Twenty-four hours later, Patrick unwraps a secret family journal that leads him and his father on an unexpected adventure across the Silk Road. Along the way, they discover secret codes, ancient cultures, political intrigue, buried treasure, and family legacies.
What is the book's genre?
Chaturanga is primarily “adventure-travel” fiction. But it entails mystery, geopolitics, and history, too, which makes it a fun and exciting way to learn about an important and, all too often, misunderstood part of the world. And it's also a coming-of-age story about fathers and sons, growing up, and finding one's place in the world.
Who should read this book?
Chaturanga is for anyone who enjoys stories about adventure, exploration, travel, history, and mystery. The book contains no violence, profanity, or “adult” themes, so it's appropriate for readers of all ages.
What is the meaning of the book's title?
Chaturanga is an ancient strategy game invented in India during the fifth century. Meaning “four divisions” in Sanskrit, it is thought to be the earliest ancestor of chess. Unlike chess, however, the rules of Chaturanga are inexact and not well understood. Its rules and strategies – even the number of contestants – vary according to where and by whom the game is played.
For these reasons, Chaturanga is an excellent analogy for the geopolitics of Central Asia. Throughout history, this complex region has been a crossroads of culture, religion, and empire, as well as a hotbed of rebellion and radicalism. During the 1700s and 1800s, Britain and Russia wrestled over control of the region – a contest famously known as the Great Game. However, this "game" never really ended. Today, big and small powers alike still compete for influence over the region’s strategic terrain and natural resources. Despite the game's many players, shifting strategies, and murky rules, Central Asia’s geography endures as the “grand chessboard” of the world.
Does the book have bias? Does it try to convince the reader of a certain point of view?
All books have bias. That said, Chaturanga presents multiple (and often contrasting) viewpoints about the history and politics of Central Asia. Along his journey, the main character (Patrick) hears the perspectives of other Americans, as well as Russians, Armenians, Chinese, Turks and Turkmen. Each character offers his opinion about the region’s complex political affairs. But like all opinions, they should be taken by the reader with a grain of salt.
The author’s bias is towards independent and positive thinking. Hopefully, by the end of the book, the reader will gain an appreciation for perspective-taking, compassion, and the importance of being true to him/herself.