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The Realm of Ashu and Lia

When it comes to themed entertainment in Dhaka, people have very limited choice. But being true Bangladeshis, we learn to make do without complaining too much. While the earlier theme parks like Wonderland and Shishu Park might have tickled our fancy when we were kids, it is Fantasy Kingdom that managed to keep our hopes alive for a truly world class theme park.

Fantasy Kingdom opened its doors for the first time in February 2002, and hasn't looked back since. The notorious Magic Carpet, the Santamaria ship, and the first roller coaster in the country all attracted people in the thousands. While the rides may have seemed innovative at the time, it wouldn't really be truthful to say it has aged gracefully. There is now an added element of risk to the rides that make them more fun: rust. The Santamaria used to be silky smooth, but nowadays it emits groaning and creaking noises that make it more akin to an ancient ship than ever before. The roller coaster ride is probably the shortest ever, and the food is still below standard.

Everything isn't too bleak either. The Magic Carpet remains vomit inducing (there still isn't a sign that warns people with heart problems not to get on that ride) and since most people are too scared to get on it, it remains more or less fresh. The “lost kingdom” theme hasn't lost its charm yet. The developers will be updating the existing rides soon, and adding a few more if space is available so that the park can finally meet today's world standards.

One of the latest attractions is the go-kart track. Everyone should experience this at least once. It is awesome. It is really good. I've suddenly run out of adjectives, so again, it's awesome. Take as many of your friends as possible and choose the grouped tournament package, then battle it out to be crowned the champion. It'll also teach you about keeping your cool, because instead of a flat out race, it's all about putting in consistently fast lap times. The track might be a little short, but provide enough excitement with banking turns and little or no runoffs on the sides. Be careful or else you'll spin out.

Located in Ashulia (outskirts of Dhaka), it is an experience getting there too. Unless you are a sad depressed person who goes to theme parks alone, you'll enjoy the ride there along with your friends or family. If food is a major concern for you, it's wise to look outside the park. Little Italy is a nifty little restaurant that won't eat up your wallet while providing very good food. Location is conveniently close to Fantasy Kingdom too. If you get tired of the rides, you can always visit the adjacent Water Kingdom and Heritage Park for different kinds of fun.

Fantasy Kingdom hosts several shows and events on a monthly basis. Be it concerts, conferences, school or company picnics, private birthday parties, Fantasy Kingdom will arrange it for you, even the catering bit. It can also accommodate guests in the Motel Atlantis resort hotel. For booking or requesting information, call 8833786/01913531381. Fantasy Kingdom is open to public from 10 am to 10 pm on Fridays and on public holidays, while on weekdays it opens at 11am and closes at 9pm. So go give it a try for a refreshing break of pace from your boring lives.

By Shaer Duita Fish Reaz

Book Review
The Darkness That Comes Before

IT'S not very often that I feel motivated enough to actually come forward and review a book. The reasons centre mostly on my insane need to hoard good books to myself. Another is that few books very, very rarely incite enough emotion in me that I'm driven to write about them. A colleague of mine called me picky in this regard. I don't mind, I like my books rare and intelligent. Like a good steak… except a steak would be just rare and not intelligent… on account of the cow being dead and... all.

If you were to ignore that otherwise misleading bovine comment, that intro would make a little more sense. This week though, a few things did egg me on to bring to the fore a book that is beautiful, the first of a trilogy. Why? Because it's that good and because it messed with my mind so much I don't feel the aforementioned need to keep mum. More, I feel the need to break silence.

Prince of Nothing as the trilogy is called comes from the mind of R Scott Bakker, a man who pursued a Ph.D in philosophy only to give it up at the final stages to go write a high fantasy series. As fantasy authors go, in my opinion, Bakker rates at the very top.

In the first of the trilogy, The Darkness That Comes Before, Bakker creates a world that contains a fully developed history stretching thousands of fictional years and countries. There's magic, there are ghastly beasts and the end of the world. But the story of the Prince of Nothing starts from there. After the Apocalypse. And no, it is not a dystopian epic about a world gone mad. It's more a story of a world that has recovered from the wounds it once suffered, and like a wounded animal, has repressed the painful memories. The people have very nearly forgotten the history and the knowledge they once held and more so, they scoff at the very events that shaped them. Because they seem so implausible.

We are introduced into this world first through Anasurimbor Kelhus, the prince of nothing, as he travels from the Apocalypse blasted north to the southern land of the Three Seas in search of his father. While at first this sounds like any normal family reunion story, we quickly see that Kelhus, is not normal. A man with a mind trained to actually foresee his own thoughts and read human faces so that everything is laid bare; he searches for his father because he needs to kill him.

And on the other side of the world we come into the world of Mandate sorcerer Drusas Achamian. Achamian is by far one of the most tragic characters I have ever come across. Being a Mandate sorcerer, his nights are plagued with dreams from the first Apocalypse, courtesy of the sorcerer who set up the Mandate order of sorcery. Not only does he live a life he was forced into and doesn't care for, he has come to realise that the ultimate futility of human life lies in humanity's need to love. And through all that happens in the series, he strives to hold on to that love.

The first book's storyline deals with a holy war being declared by the whole of the Three Seas against their neighbours who follow a solitary god. And we see how this holy war shapes and changes numerous characters including the two central ones.

The beauty of this book lies in the way Bakker has written it. Beautiful language, and a focus on the human psyche rather than the magical fantasy tells you story of how great events can shape people into something unrecognisable. Furthermore, Bakker constantly explores matters of philosophy and psychology through the events and characters. The story, as engaging as it is, serves more to show the depth of his characters.

I've taken great liberties in stripping this story down to give you only the barest of details, because everything this series presents cannot possibly be summarised in a review. And this is only the first book.

Like I said at the start, it's not very often that I review a book. While the list of my favourite books stretches so far that I can't even remember some of them, The Darkness That Comes Before managed to not only reach the top of my list but persuaded me to actually write about it.

A lot of people don't realise the depth of emotion that pushes someone to write about something they've read. The book leaves a mark so deep that you cannot help but expound upon it. If you decide to give the Prince of Nothing series a try, be assured that you won't be disappointed.

By Tareq Adnan

Inexpensive thrills

WHETHER people admit it or not, when Wonderland first opened in Dhaka, it was a really big deal. Even though there was Shishu Park, kids just went nuts at the thought of going to Wonderland where the rides were much cooler. The excitement of knocking into that other cart in the bumper car station sent little hearts a-flutter with eager anticipation. And nothing felt more dreadful than those few seconds preceding the slow chug into the dark cave filled with “monsters” (angrily banging the wire fences in frustration over their lousy jobs and unfortunate costumes). Over the years, cooler things opened up and the place lost its sparkle for many, like all things in this fickle world. Even though this review was initially a compulsion, the place was an unexpected trip down a long forgotten memory lane.

Bright posters hung outside the gates and familiar lights shone over the yellow and purple outer walls. Entry prices were at Tk60 per ticket and rides were mostly priced at Tk20 per person. The rides were the same as ever, and while that may be one of the reasons why popularity took a hit, it was still nostalgic to get on familiar rides like the ghost train and bumper cars. There were, however, a few relatively newer rides which somewhat changed the familiar horizon of Wonderland. The food joints still served the popcorn and fuchka that have held on to their unique 'Wonderland' flavour.

Though Wonderland lost a lot of its magic over the years, given the excruciating traffic one has to spend half the day pushing through to get to Fantasy Kingdom and Nandan Park, and the difficulty of access and safety issues for families without private transport, Wonderland has potential in housing more interest. It is a general public opinion of people with limitations to their recreational expenses that, if Wonderland used its investment on major improvements in certain areas, it would be an ideal place to take their children to on weekends and not just on occasions like Eid, when it becomes too crowded to go anywhere else.

By Tanzia Amreen Haq



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