I probably would have enjoyed this book a lot more had I not just finished re-reading Catch-22. While the plot is entirely original superficially, there are several other aspects that are too similar to Heller’s novel for me to appreciate on their own merit, like the underlying symbolic and plot patterns, not to mention the fact that the main character is in an airforce and that all of the officers above him are absurdly maniacal and of questionable moral fiber (hilarious in Catch-22, souringly unoriginal here).
While I do think this is a good example of a first novel, I must also point out that it is…a good example of a first novel: the prose is fresh and crisp at times, the superficial situations are original, but all of the main ideas (and everything else between the covers) is old news.
I am sure I will eventually come to enjoy Mohammed Hanif as an author as he strengthens his writing style and becomes more unique and original, so I will most likely try re-reading Mangoes later on down the line. Hopefully when that time comes, the taste in my mouth will not be nearly as sour as it is now.