‘God is a Gamer’ by Ravi Subramanian is written in a style reminiscent of Agatha Christie mysteries. The first few chapters start with establishing the setting and the characters, and just as you start getting a sense of familiarity with them events start rolling in motion — an influential banker in Mumbai takes a high dive from a highrise building and her daughter is sure that it wasn’t a suicide; in Washington D.C. an American senator dies in a car explosion; in Goa two young people meet and fall in love amidst riots, and a father is reunited with his long-lost son; a hooker in America starts blogging about her sexual exploits with 300 celebrities; and in New York the biggest ATM heist of all time is carried out.
Subramanian skillfully lays out every incident, like jigsaw puzzle pieces, and the rest of the novel is a ‘game’ as he slowly connects the dots to form the entire picture, where everything falls in place. Betrayal, Murder, Lust, Scandal, Love, Trust, Lies, Corruption – the emotional roller coaster of the plot twists through all these dirty alleys. There is the ultimate revelation scene: the detective (like Agatha Christie’s character Poirot) in an elaborate setting and in the presence of all the characters solves the mystery, and turns to the culprit to shriek – You there, YOU DID IT!
The ultimate plot twist at the end of the novel is perhaps the highlight of this story. Suddenly all that you had read and thought you understood was you realize nowhere near to the truth, and it forces you to impetuously go through it all over again, to examine the plot with the magnifying glass of your newfound knowledge.
All’s well that ends well. Not really. There are quite a few drawbacks to this novel as well. At places, the action starts dropping down or the climax is stretched out till it snaps, and it takes all your willpower to continue reading. The moments of dramatic irony and suspense are brilliantly written. Unfortunately most of these scenes come towards the conclusion of the novel. For a large time at the beginning of the novel, the readers are left floundering in the dark, trying in vain to find a common thread of linkage between all that they are reading.
The characters lack depth, and most of their actions seem arbitrary (of course in the Ultimate Revelation Scene all the arbitrariness start making sense, but it comes too late). A lot of effort has been taken to make the dialogues between characters seem natural, and this shows – which of course makes the dialogues seem all the more unnatural. Paradoxically one of my other complaints would be that dialogue in itself is very rare in this novel. The narrator’s voice is everywhere, clarifying everything that is being said by the characters, and at times this intrusion feels unwelcome and wholly unnecessary. It gives a sense of unnaturality to the scene, and reduces the sense of empathy. I would perhaps like this book more if the narrator had taken a back seat at times, and let the behaviour and dialogue of the characters take the plot forward. There are also loopholes in the plot as big as the craters on the moon, but with a plot as grandiose as the one Ravi Subramanian has woven, a few logical lapses are but inevitable. I, however prefer novels with seamless plot action, where each incident follows the next in logical succession as evidenced by the narrative voice; and the logical lapses in this novel and the sudden jumps in action feels akin to driving on a potholed roads.
Yet if you manage to withstand the ride, the view is beautiful.
This novel is one of those that requires a lot of patience and willpower in the early stages, for you to keep turning the pages, but the ending makes the efforts almost worthwhile.
I would recommend this novel to fans of mystery and drama, but not to fans of fast-paced action, because this novel doesn’t give you that. One thing that it does give (and therefore merits mention) is knowledge on e-commerce. Ravi Subramanian has oft been described as the ‘John Grisham’ of writing, and this book is a wonderful repertoire of knowledge about bitcoins and TOR or the Onion Router. The bits and packets of information have been skillfully interspaced with the plot, and is written in a simplistic way that anyone can grasp. At times it might feel too much or unnecessary, but my advice to you is keep reading. It will all make sense at the end. Actually this advice is applicable for the entire novel.
It all makes sense in the end. You just need patience to reach there.
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