LAHORE: A futuristic fiction novel, written by a 12-year-old boy, was launched at a local hotel here on Saturday.

Titled Deadlier Than a Pandemic, the 191-page novel has been written by Ahmed Omer, an Aitchison College student who moved to Pakistan from the UK around four years ago.

Set in the year 3045, the novel traces the life of Robert Freeman, a boy who, after having witnessed the deaths of his parents and sister during World War 3, goes on to be captured and treated brutally before escaping to Alaska where he eventually becomes a general of the Alaskan army and sets out to seek revenge on his captors.

Kick-starting the event, the author’s father, Omer Farooq, welcomed the guests followed by a recitation from the holy Quran. Omer’s younger sister, Taneesha, then recited a poem she had written to pay tribute to her relationship with her brother.

The young author then took the floor and shared his journey of becoming a writer. “It was during lockdown that my mother motivated me to write as she liked my writing skills. I was hesitant at first but she persevered and I eventually did it.”

Talking about the challenges he faced during the 11 months it took him to finish the novel, he said he would often suffer from brain fog, get distracted and start thinking about playing sports. The lessons he learnt along the way were believing in one’s abilities, valuing the support from near and dear ones, practicing patience and heeding parental advice.

He then explained what the book was about and that this maiden experience had encouraged him to write more in the future and share his experiences.

Speaking briefly at the event, Punjab School Education Minister Dr Murad Raas congratulated Omer and credited his parents with inculcating the confidence in their child to write the book. “No one could even think of doing something like this during my time at Aitchison,” he commented on a lighter note. “We must encourage children and more kids should write, as they are going through a difficult situation (in the pandemic) and this will help them utilise their potential.”

Special guest Dr Nasira Javed Iqbal also spoke on the occasion and wished Omer the best. She talked about the book and how she found it intriguing and fascinating.

The young author told Dawn that he enjoys playing sports besides reading both non-fiction and fiction genres, including the Roald Dahl and the Wimpy Kid series. “But I never thought I could write my own book.”

On why he chose fiction for his debut novel, Omer said the genre opened new avenues to one’s imagination and one could write about pretty much anything. “You’re dragged into different worlds through fiction.”

The event was also attended by MPA Hina Butt as well as people from the fashion, media and academic world.

The book has been published by UK’s Pegasus Elliot Mackenzie Publishers Ltd and is available online for now. It will be available at local bookstores here soon.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2021

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