Title: God is a Gamer
Author: Ravi Subramanian
Price: Rs. 299
God is a Gamer by Ravi Subramanian is the world’s first ever bitcoin thriller. Subramanian weaves a careful web of deceit, lies and betrayal, where gamers, bankers, politicians and terrorists play with a stash of virtual money.
A prominent politician in the US is brutally assassinated just before his meeting with the President, a team of men conduct an ATM heist in New York City with forged cards, and a son reunites with his estranged father and offers to assist him in his newish business venture.
It is a multi-layered narrative, zipping from the cities in the US to Bombay, sometimes Goa to Delhi, but is played out mostly in the corporate boardrooms of Bombay. Initially, the book reads like a bunch of seemingly unconnected incidents but it’s worth hanging onto all the minor details that Subramanian casually slips in. It is a complex plot. One, that made me pause every few chapters for a little breather and take it all in, because in the end, nothing is really as it seems.
I’ve read a few of Subramanian’s previous books, some which I think were quite terribly written. But Subramanian has come a long way since then; in terms of his plots, his slick characterization and general writing finesse. And I think God is a Gamer is his finest till date. It once again rips apart the cocoon of security that we think we are safely ensconced in.
What works for God is a Gamer is that it is a very contemporary read. It places in front of us, akin to a mirror, the very world we reside in. The long hours spent on the Internet, our sly interactions with people, our hidden motives in some of these interactions, et al. There was little human emotion in the book, since we are aware that much of it is mostly contrived.
While it is a complex plot, Subramanian is unable to bring it up to a crescendo. I kept waiting for the bomb to drop but I didn’t quite get that. The end of the book was a hasty attempt to tie up all the loose ends and conclude.
The characterization isn’t very detailed but I didn’t miss it as much; mostly, because it is mostly the plot that keeps the book going. While the writing was engaging, I found it quite sloppy in just a few instances, like it was a last-minute rehash. Sometimes, there was just too much focus on the mundane.
I enjoyed God is a Gamer. It was racy and modern. And would provide for very rich material for a Bollywood film, if anyone chooses to take it up; as is the case with most of Subramanian’s plots. There’s little else that I did in the two days that I read this book. It’s unputdownable.
So thank you, Mr. Subramanian and BlogAdda.com for the autographed copy. It’s always nice when authors do that without being asked.
Learn more about Ravi Subramanian and his books.
Also read a review of The Bankster.
Title: 60 Minutes
Author: Upendra Namburi
Number of pages: 361
Price: Rs. 350
60 Minutes by Upendra Namburi is a corporate drama where all the action unfolds within 60 racy, and sometimes chilling, minutes. Primarily a tale chronicling the intense rivalry between Agastya and Sailesh, two Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) at leading FMCGs, it touches upon the other trappings of corporate life with finesse; the thrill of addictive trading in the stock market, the fast cars, spurned women out to avenge hurt, humongous egos, deception and the lust for money, power and hegemony.
Agastya is in the midst of a new product launch, perhaps the most important one of his career, when Maithili, an ex-flame, walks into his office threatening to turn his marital life upside down. Maithili comes with her own share of emotional baggage and it’s almost amusing to see her lose herself, gradually.
Simultaneously, other events in the office and the marketplace, set into motion at various points in his career, threaten to jeopardise Agastya’s professional life. And he has only the next 60 minutes to salvage it all.
The book is set in contemporary Bombay, travelling to other cities occasionally. Although all the action takes place within 60 minutes, the narrative continually shifts into the past to sometimes indicate the context of the current events. Sometimes, it is just additional background information on an individual, occasionally tying a loose end together. It is an intense read, often asking the reader to connect some dots.
While Namburi does a fine job of detailing the characters of the two rival CMOs, replete with their angst and insecurities, some of his other characters are quite vague. They make fleeting appearances and hasty exits, sometimes without an adequate backstory. I also felt that the characters spend too much time ruminating on their thoughts, motives and intentions, taking away from the main plot. There was much telling rather than showing.
It is a complex plot. Namburi attempts to pack in too many details about too many events. I think a slightly less complicated plot with better characterization, particularly of the two women in Agastya’s life, Maithili and Nandita, would have been more effective.
But I enjoyed Namburi’s writing. It is direct, crisp and engaging. However, I did spot some sloppy writing in a few instances though, which some careful editing could have weeded out.
60 Minutes is high on emotions; disappointment, rejection, elation, fear, relief. It is a revealing window into corporate life in India, exposing the slime and deceit in corporate relationships, the oft-shady transactions, the back-stabbing and the vested interests. It would make for a fantastic Bollywood plot, with all the drama, subterfuge and intrigue.
Take your time to relish 60 Minutes. There is much to enjoy in the careful plot that Namburi weaves. You will find shades of yourself and your colleagues in Agastya and his world. And increasingly you’ll find yourself as a voyeur in this corporate action-packed drama.
It is the type of book that you want to curl up with on a lazy weekend and read it at a stretch only because you are impatient to end the suspense, but relish it.
Learn more about 60 Minutes.
Book: Prisoner Jailor Prime Minister
Author: Tabrik C
Number of pages: 319
Price: Rs. 350
Prisoner Jailor Prime Minister by Tabrik C is a chilling tale of a music maestro, who by a sudden turn of events is also the newly elected Prime Minister of India. It is an intense account of Siddhartha Tagore’s fascinating journey from Harvard to 7 Race Course Road in the backdrop of an intriguing past, menacing politics and hidden lust.
The sight of a solitary man on the front cover pretty much sets the tone of the book, because for a large part of his life, Tagore walks alone, sometimes also lonely. The back cover depicts Rashtrapati Bhavan, reminiscent of a power struggle.
It took me a few chapters to warm up to the book and get used to Tabrik’s style of writing. He switches between times, places and ideas with great ease, usually providing a connecting idea, thought or word for the next chapter. At some places, it is very obvious, not so obvious at some others.
Set in India, largely in Delhi, January 2017 onwards, in the midst of a turbulent political scenario, Prisoner Jailor Prime Minister traces Tagore’s disturbed life; his student days at Harvard, his all-consuming passion for music, his troubled return to India, his meteoric political assent, the skeletons in this closet, which threaten to destroy him.
Tabrik’s heavily-layered writing leaves you for gasping for air on more than one occasion. There is much sub-text between the pages, some of which could be done without. Tabrik is a detailed writer, but also leaves a lot open to the reader’s imagination. He elevates Tagore’s musical gifts to that of Mozart’s madness, providing a refreshing spin on a prime minister’s persona. His music is his refuge; it threatens to consume him. It also keeps him together. As the prime minister, Tagore is determined and extraordinarily clear-headed. He only comes undone when he is alone with his piano.
For the all the loneliness and emotional upheaval in his life, Tagore’s best moments are when he is interacting with other characters in the book. Be it Rubaya, the love of his life; Karishma or K, Ruby’s twin sister; Rukmani Devi, his primary rival; Kabir; his son. His exchanges with Kabir are particularly revealing. They also lighten up the general mood of the book.
Prisoner Jailor Prime Minister is a contemporary read. There are emails, press reports, clear references to previous political leaders, Harley Davidsons zooming all over Delhi, etc. I’d love to see this book being made into a film. To see Siddhartha Tagore get consumed by music and passion would be so much nicer than reading it.
Tabrik’s warning on the front cover, “You can’t outrun fate,” is beautifully illustrated toward the end of the book. This trail of thought is also present throughout the book but it reaches a crescendo toward the end, until Tagore puts all the demons to bed.
Tabrik’s Prisoner Jailor Prime Minister is a bit of an effort initially. It is slow and dull. But it picks up pace after the first few chapters, beautifully. It will also take some time to acquaint yourself with Tagore’s idiosyncrasies. And then you’ll enjoy them when you do.
Prisoner Jailor Prime Minister is a good read. Refreshing and reaffirming. Pick it up for a heady combination of perfume and music and relationships.
Learn more about Prisoner Jailor Prime Minister.
Book: Shoes of the Dead
Author: Kota Neelima
Number of pages: 274
Price: Rs. 495
I was looking forward to Shoes of the Dead by Kota Neelima. With farmer suicides, arrogant politicians and conflicting interests, it looked like a timely read. Reminded me of something that P Sainath might put together. In her note, at the beginning of the book, Neelima admits, “The stories of the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra are the soul of this book.” Largely set in Delhi and Mityala, a district in south central India, Shoes of the Dead draws you into a world of greed, deceit and helplessness.
Sudhakar Bhadra, bogged down by the burden of successive crop failures and excessive debt, commits suicide. The powerful district committee of Mityala denies his family compensation, stating that his death was not debt-related. Gangiri, Bhadra’s brother, takes it upon himself to bring justice to the dead by influencing the committee decisions to validate all similar farmer suicides as being debt-related. He gets himself appointed in the committee and systematically works toward questioning the status quo and reversing the previously passed verdicts.
In Delhi, a novice politician, Keyur Kashinath of the Democratic Party, a first-time member of Parliament from Mityala, is facing his first political crisis. It is in his invested interests to project the farmer suicides in his district as negligible and that all is hunky dory. However, Gangiri does not let him rest easy. The fight is not personal. It’s about being principled and doing the right thing.
Joining the two worlds is the tale of Nazar Prabhakar, a conscientious journalist, and Dr. Videhi Jaichand, a academic with the Center for Contemporary Studies, both of whom are fighting demons of their own.
Shoes of the Dead is an incisive read. Exposing the rot at the local government level, it has characters we are all too familiar with: the young and ambitious second-generation politician who thinks political power can be inherited and the spoils are his for the taking; greedy, unscrupulous moneylenders who thrive on exploiting the impoverished, often living off them; well-meaning but misguided academics; and farmers who give up literally everything in the hope of a successful harvest.
It is a loaded but an easy road. Neelima is rich with her descriptions, of people, of homes, of nature and even Delhi. I could keep rereading her passages where she narrates how the day makes way for night, the ennui of mid-morning angst and the bittersweet feeling that accompanies most sunsets. But as much as I loved reading the prose, I kept feeling that a lot of the writing and pontification belonged elsewhere. There was too much subtext between the lines, which the author failed to tie in successfully. Perhaps she didn’t intend to lead them to a conclusive end but I was left wanting.
Read Shoes of the Dead for its bold and blatant portrayal of the complexities and dynamics that govern our interaction with and perception of rural India. Let the facts startle you and leave you pondering on the worth of human life and its inequities.
I finished the book in a few hours but I’m going to revisit it to get reacquainted with heroes like Gangiri and Nazar Prabhakar.
Learn more about Shoes of the Dead.