By Troy Patterson
Updated November 19, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

Continuing the story of 2001’s Half a Life, Nobel winner V.S. Naipaul charts the political awakening (and subsequent spiritual coma) of Willie Chandran. Goaded into action by his radical sister, Willie — a self-exiled native of India and hugely complacent middle-aged slacker — returns home to join a left-wing guerrilla army. He begins gun-running and fomenting peasant revolt, but his role in one bloody act convinces him, ”I am among absolute maniacs.” Too static to be much of a thriller and often too schematic to draw us fully to its hero’s heart, Magic Seeds nonetheless offers a gripping glimpse at the sadness of a dream deformed.