Friday, 24 October 2014

Book Review: God Is A Gamer by Ravi Subramanian

(Image Source: Google)
Book Name: God Is A Gamer
Author: Ravi Subramanian
Publisher: Penguin Books India
Pages: 310
Price: Rs 299/-

Boldly embellished in gold above dark clouds hovering over Washington’s Capitol building, Ravi Subramanian proclaims aloud God is a Gamer. To further the amp quotient, the author casually underplays the drama around an age old question- ‘Is revenge a crime?’ I say underplay for it is only towards the end that he unveils his grand scheme, a scheme that is all about vengeance subtly pushed to the corner amidst the grander scheme of suspense and story-telling. Does Subramanian’s God is a Gamer live up-to your expectations? Does the book capture your interest and keep you hooked to its pages? Let’s find out.

The Plot
The story begins in the power houses of New York where we witness a certain drama unfolding as powerful businessmen and an even more powerful Senator indulge in games of manipulation. Their ambitions yet unclear, the prologue is an unfurling of the play to follow- a play that revolves around the vision of a certain unknown Satoshi Nakamato and his dream of a virtual currency in an anonymous world. When Senator Gillian Tan is killed in a car explosion at the Washington DC and one of India’s leading banks falls prey to a phishing scam, the two seemingly disconnected events seem to bear no relevance to each other. Special Agent Adrian Scott of the FBI is called in to investigate the murder of the Senator and meets a series of dead ends. As the NYIB is dealt another blow in the form of an ATM heist, the FBI finally makes a breakthrough and Adrian Scott realises that the corridors of power are much more complicated than they seem.  When Nikki Tan, wife to Gillian Tan, is attacked in her own house, Adrian Scott uncovers a certain ring with a ‘Bitcoin’ private key etched on the surface.

 In India Malvika Sehgal, the head of NYIB, commits suicide and Aditya Rao’s company eTIOS is thrown into chaos after the ATM heist. Tanya, Malvika’s daughter, is convinced that her mother has been murdered.  As Aditya’s long lost son Varun takes the reins of his father’s gaming company IndiScape, the suicide of Malvika Sehgal gets murkier and the CBI is called in to investigate the case. As the book questions-‘What happens when you cross Gamer, Banker, Politician  and Terrorist with virtual money?’ Read the book to find out.

Is it worth your time?
To be honest I haven’t read Subramanian’s previous works and after reading God is a Gamer, I definitely plan to get my hands on those. His fictional works include If God Was a Banker, Devil in Pinstripes, The Incredible Banker, The Bankster and Bankerupt. Non-fiction includes I Bought the Monk’s Ferrari. God is a Gamer was an outstanding thriller with just about the right amount of suspense, complicity and spice to keep you hooked to its pages. I can even say it is one of the few good books on the Indian market as of now with absolutely predictable and clich├ęd stories flooding the shelves. In India, it doesn't take much to hit the best-seller list and quality books are hard to find. The characters in the book are interesting and twisted, the plot is fast and unpredictable and the writer’s presentation perfect. God is a Gamer is impressive and grand, with just about the perfect dose of suspense and zing. And somehow, you can’t keep the pages turning fast enough.

(Image Source: Google

Thumbs Down
At times, the use of certain financial terms and the disconnected weaving in and out of the plot might baffle the reader but the book as a whole delivers on its promise.

If you love thriller, you should definitely get your hands on it. After a series of insufferable books by Indian writers that make you want to bang your head against the wall, here is something finally good enough that deserves its place on the best-seller list.

Rating: 4/5

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Away from Home (#GharwaliDiwali)

It was our first Diwali away from home. The city had outdone itself as fairy lights hung from canopies above streets, colourful lanterns shone bright against the night skies and women in gorgeous hues blew conchs as others went around lighting candles and bursting crackers. We sisters watched stunned as colourful fireworks burst against the night sky and then faded away only to be outshone by brighter fireworks. Yet it wasn't home.

 (The lonely balcony )

‘Beautiful, isn't it?’ my elder sister asked.

‘Ofcourse, but candles? Diyas are so much better. Remember how Papa would go shopping on Diwali eve and buy hundreds of diyas?’ I replied.

‘And then on the day of Diwali we would sit around all day shaping cotton threads and pouring oil into the diyas. You know I hated going into the backyard alone. But Mom would always assign me the task of decorating the backyard. It was creepy.’

‘Mom must be doing it all alone this year’, I said quietly.

(Lanterns on the streets)

We both fell silent. A thin spark of light shot up into the sky and burst into golden shimmer. Suddenly I started missing home terribly - the excitement and anticipation, the impatience, the coming together of the whole family to celebrate Diwali and most importantly the traditions. We would sit beside Ma as she offered prayers to Mother Lakhsmi and pay our tributes to the Goddess by lighting the first cracker in front of the deity.

The shrill sound of my sister’s ring tone filled my ears. ‘It’s Vishal! Let’s put him on speaker,’ said my sister excitedly.

‘Ahoy idiots! Have you burst any crackers yet?’ came my brother’s voice over the phone.

‘Nah... Don’t feel like,’ we chimed at the same time.

‘Great. Just hold on. Ma is just about to finish the puja. Get your crackers ready. I’m getting mine as well.’

First Diwali away from home)

All of a sudden, the distance no longer mattered. For one precious moment, we felt like we were together, standing in front of the deity with our crackers, all excited like four year-olds as we waited for Ma to finish the puja. And no sooner my brother screamed “Happy Diwali” over the phone, our crackers burst forth into sparks and we grinned like fools, elated as the sparks consumed the stick and fizzled away.

‘That was precious Vishal, wasn't it?’ I asked.

‘It always is sweetheart, it always is,' came Ma’s voice over the phone.

And as the city shimmered with joy, we looked back at the sky, our hearts a little lighter, our smiles a little brighter for we had found home for a few prized minutes. We brought out the candles and fairy lights, decorating the lonely balcony and calling out to neighbours as they hung lanterns, the balcony coming alive beneath our hands as the fairy lights happily twinkled and the colourful candles cheerfully dazzled, heralding the onset of Diwali.

 Celebrating #GharwaliDiwali with

Watch the PepsiCo #GharWaliDiwali film

(Photo Credits: Tarunima Dutta and Myself)

Monday, 13 October 2014

Book Review: Sceadu by Prashant Pinge

Book Name: Sceadu
Author: Prashant Pinge
Genre: Children’s Fantasy
Publisher: Prashant Pinge

If I were to pick up a book on children’s fantasy from the store, Prashant Pinge’s Sceadu would not even figure on my list. The reason behind this being Sceadu (pronounced as Shay-du) sports an absolutely hideous cover that is instantaneously revolting and misleading. A gruesome scull-like mask with a scary smile adorning its golden face protruding against the black backdrop does not make for an attractive cover. But do not let the cover mislead you into thinking that Sceadu is not your money’s worth. For here is a story that is fascinating and well executed and deserves applause for creating a world beyond the realm of reality that is both credible and fantastic.

The Plot 
Nine year old Matilda finds herself haunted by nightmares of shadows when she ends up with a century old book Sceadu from a sale at the local library. As her nightmares grow worse, Matilda is increasingly tempted to reveal the contents of the book. But Sceadu houses a world of secrets that is so implausible that Matilda has only one way to ascertain. As nine year old Matilda disappears suddenly under mysterious circumstances, her brother Robert and cousins Patrick and Steven set out on a quest to find Matilda. The four end up in Sceadu, a land hidden in the human shadow, wherein begins an adventure where Matilda, Robert, Patrick and Steven fight their own inner demons whilst wrestling the vicious creatures of Sceadu. As magical Imps, Faeries, Ghouls and Goblins hunt down the four Children of Leod and ancient prophecies are revealed, the children realise that bigger issues are at stake and the world as they had known might perish until the children stop the evil King Resolutus. Will the children succeed in thwarting the plans of the evil Resolutus or will they succumb and risk the existence of mankind?

A preview of the Characters
Matilda reminded me of Lucy from The Chronicles of Narnia. Brave and inquisitive, Matilda doubts her own worth and suffers from a lack of confidence in her own abilities. Robert, Matilda’s brother, is a bully who engages in constant displays of might is right whilst Steven refuses to open his mind to phenomenon beyond the borders of logic and science.  Steven’s brother Patrick, the oldest amongst the cousins is impatient and authorative and lying beyond these negativities are virtues that the children need to find for themselves. The magical creatures in the world of Sceadu are manifestations of the darker sides of human nature- anger, sloth, greed, power, etc. But beyond all the struggle for power, lies hope and the Eorls manifest themselves as the positivity that often lies concealed in the shadow.

Can the book be enjoyed by the old and young alike?
Though the book predominantly targets the young, Sceadu does deliver instances of deep thought that the old may equally enjoy. It’s a book that a mother might enjoy narrating to her children for there are lessons to be learnt and courage to be found, and yet wisdom to be drawn from the struggles of the four cousins. Pinge wonderfully crafts a story that deals with the thin demarcations between the real and the fabled and delves into deep psychology to create Sceadu. Tinged with adequate fables of Greek mythology combined with myths of his own, Sceadu holds enough to interest the old with thoughts of a certain psychological kind dealing with the darker sides of human nature. I would definitely enjoy retelling this story to my young niece and help her draw wisdom from the same for nothing thrills the young more than magic and fairy-tales.

Sceadu is a book that children will immensely enjoy for it is a tale of adventures and grief, of struggles and hope and ordinary heroes who emerge victorious firmly rooting in our minds that no matter what, in the end, good shall triumph over evil.

Rating: 3/5

(I received a copy of the book from the author for reviewing. All views are my own.)
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