Sacred Games is a novel as big, ambitious, multi-layered, contradictory, funny, sad, scary, violent, tender, complex, and irresistible as India itself. Steep yourself in this story, enjoy the delicious masala Chandra has created, and you will have an idea of how the country manages to hang together despite age-old hatreds, hundreds of dialects, different religious practices, the caste system, and corruption everywhere. The Game keeps it afloat.
There are more than a half-dozen subplots to be enjoyed, but the main events take place between Inspector Sartaj Singh, a Sikh member of the Mumbai police force, and Ganesh Gaitonde, the most wanted gangster in India. It is no accident that Ganesh is named for the Hindu god of success, the elephant god much revered by Hindus everywhere. By the world's standards he has made a huge success of his life: he has everything he wants. But soon after the novel begins he is holed up in a bomb shelter from which there is no escape, and Sartaj is right outside the door. Ganesh and Sartaj trade barbs, discuss the meaning of good and evil, hold desultory conversations alternating with heated exchanges, and, finally, Singh bulldozes the building to the ground. He finds Ganesh dead of a gunshot wound, and an unknown woman dead in the bunker along with him.
How did it come to this? Of course, Singh has wanted to capture this prize for years, but why now and why in this way? The chapters that follow tell both their stories, but especially chronicle Gaitonde's rise to power. He is a clever devil, to be sure, and his tales are as captivating as those of Scheherezade. Like her he spins them out one by one and often saves part of the story for the reader--or Sartaj--to figure out. He is involved in every racket in India, corrupt to the core, but even he is afraid of Swami Shridlar Shukla, his Hindu guru and adviser. In the story Gaitonde shares with Singh and countless other characters, Vikram Chandra has written a fabulous tale of treachery, a thriller, and a tour of the mean streets of India, complete with street slang. --Valerie Ryan, Amazon.com