I cuddled up with book on a lazy Saturday afternoon. At 8pm I reluctantly put it down, because I had a dinner commitment to keep. 3am when I came home, instead of carefully Q-tip-ing my eye makeup, I washed it with a face wash because I wanted to get back to this book!
If you need more reasons to convince yourself that this is a thriller to devour, Read On…
A senator is murdered in US. Two high profile bankers mysteriously die in India. An ATM heist in US, linked to a vendor in India. Then there are games & bitcoins, romance & rivalries standing on the threshold where the virtual & the real worlds meet in Ravi Subramaian‘s ‘God is a Gamer’.
You know from the cover this book that it is about bitcoins- the virtual currency! For Subramanian it is the book’s USP, when I first read about it was the most stupid thing about the book for me. “Bitcoins are such passe!” I thought arrogantly. But, when I went through Subramanian’s six page long Prologue, I changed my stance. I was looking forward to see how he uses Bitcoins in this thriller. He does impressively. Though I have to sheepishly admit here that somehow the book doesn’t live up to the promise it made in the Prologue.
The book has all the makings of a masala movie- sex, scandals, suspense & secrets. Still, I don’t see it turning into a movie because it is not visually strong. So yeah, you’ll have to read it.
But, the question is: Is it worth your time?
Well, let’s see:
For me, a thriller should get the following 5 Basic Ingredients right to win my heart. Let’s see, how ‘God Is A Gamer’ fares on them-
1. The Story: It’s neither Stephen King, nor James Bond/ Indiana Jones, it’s not even a Da Vinci Code! Is it a good thing or bad? That’s debatable. I can’t do this without spoiling it for you. So, I’ll limit myself with saying that the plot was tight, gripping, fast paced, but I was dissatisfied with the resolution that the end offers. I wouldn’t say that the plot is predictable, but at page 98 I had figured it out. It was a hunch though, I was neither sure, nor I knew the ‘how or why’. So, I read voraciously to find answers to these questions and also to check if I am right or not.
In the first paragraph of the novel, Subramanian comes across as a Jeffrey Archer fan boy. And then, he slowly moves away from there finding his own voice, whose baritone is so haunting that you wouldn’t even remember that there was a time when you drew comparisons.
2. The underdog: Usually thrillers are written from the POV of someone who has the most to lose. This one wasn’t. In fact, I didn’t know whose POV it was. Who is the protagonist? I still don’t know. It was like reading Game Of Thrones, I have read five books & I still can’t tell who’s the main guy! Is it Tyrion or Jon? Cersie or Khaleesi? Who knows? Ditto here.
These multiple POVs gave a range to narration. I was inside the heads of so many characters that it created a dramatic tension & irony.
This is a nice experiment. It kept me on the edge of my seat but didn’t given me a chance to emotionally invest in the story. It didn’t leave any scope for me to cheer for someone. It didn’t let me participate.
3. The action: I like it when a thriller opens with an action scene. This didn’t happen here. However, I enjoyed the built up too. It told me what are the stakes here, so I overlooked that the opening didn’t introduce me to the hero. At least I saw a lurking shadow of the villain. Or, so I thought!
I think Subramanian treats action like a step-child. There’s not enough of it. I was hoping that I’ll get to see some slick virtual ass kicking or trolling, that too doesn’t happen. Although, he compensates the lack of action with his ‘style’; his language & metaphors.
I have to mention it here, that action under the sheets is so ‘thanda’ that it seems that the writer has written it in a half-hearted fashion. I know, this is not a concern of a thriller, but if you are using the ingredient of lust, might as well make it spicy.
4. Narrative Thrust: O boy! It’s strong. This novel is one high paced roller coaster ride. Each scene reveals something new, even if it is something slight it. Not a word is wasted in telling us about stuff that has nothing to do with the story. There’s always a sense of urgency, a ticking clock, so there’s no time to waste on pages. Short paragraphs make it crisp. You’ll love the way cliffhangers are used at the end of each chapter, sometimes as a sudden surprise, sometimes as a provocative announcement.
5. Show- don’t tell: Every writer graduated from Xavier’s is whipped into it. I am no exception, I am sure I’ll be ‘showing & not telling’ in my will too! So yeah, this is the most important criterion for me to judge any piece of writing.
Subramanian keeps me satisfied in this department. He does it in a such a text-book style, that my Dean at Xavier’s Ms. Jane Swamy would’ve given him an ‘A’!
It’s an aphrodisiac for nerds! For the rest of us it’s a gripping book to carry along in a long flight. However, it’s not a book you would like to read on a rainy evening with a cup of tea. The reason is simple, it entertains your heart, exercises your mind but doesn’t nourish your soul. There’s no takeaway from this book. There’s nothing that you learn. But, it makes that tedious flight fun, so yes, it’s worth a shot.