"God hath given you one face and you make yourself another."
That's Shakespeare speaking on the subject of deceit and deception in one his finest works, Hamlet. On the same lines, the subject at hand here is one that is filled with deceit to the brim.
Before getting on with the book review, I must admit that I always look forward to works of fiction penned by Ravi Subramanian (I shall refer to him as R.S.). Being a part of the banking fraternity myself, becomes a strong reason for my gravitation towards his books. Although, don't get misguided by the word 'fiction', for a lot of subjects talked about and mentioned in this book have their origins with real life people, technologies and scams. With each book, RS seems to growing like a banyan tree, spreading its roots into a larger and larger radius while his eagle-like gaze is very focused on the topic at hand.
The teasers and the competitions leading up to the book launch were well designed by the team. It was a pleasure meeting the author in flesh at the launch event and grabbing a quick copy personally autographed by RS himself.
Title - God is a gamer
Author - Ravi Subramanian
Publisher - Penguin Books
Price - Rs. 299/-
ISBN - 978-0-143-42139-9
The author, Ravi, has ensured that the cover looks appealing by keeping the title of the book in bold and golden fonts. The center of the book belongs to a golden Bitcoin imitation which sets the tone for the entire book. In keeping with the trend of his previous books, the cover for this book also features a dark silhouette against the backdrop of the White House. Another trend followed by the book is that of a punchline. 'Is revenge a crime' gives the book another shade of revenge to it. All in all, a book cover to satiate the senses of a thrill seeking reader.
The plot and characters
The externals complement the internals and the action begins from the first paragraph itself. The author employs the use of a converging storyline in order to give different perspectives to the unfolding drama. The script runs like a Jason Bourne-like action packed film. The reader can almost visualize the entire action happening right in front of their eyes. This has been ensured with the use of shorter sentences, swear words and short chapters.
The storyline has multiple threads to it and the characters in this story also have multiple layers of personalities. However, the author effortlessly weaves all these threads into a single garment.
One side of the story has a US government official Gillian Tan who is assassinated in a car bomb explosion in Washington. During the course of the investigation a website called Cotton Trail is discovered which sells illegal items via a free network called the TOR (Onion Router). The most challenging aspect of this investigation is the involvement and use of Bitcoin as a currency of payment. This brings the investigations officers to India.
Aditya Rao runs a gaming company Indiscape and eTIOS. Reuniting with his son Varun after several years (who is also into drugs and all) turns around the world of gaming and brings the kind of success that his father, Aditya, had always dreamed of. However, Varun's methods and motives stand in doubt and question.
A phishing scam unexpectedly affects innumerable customers of NYIB (New York International Bank) a place where Aditya had once worked. This is followed by the death of the chairman of NYIB, Malvika Sehgal. The field is open for accusations and even the Finance Minister is placed under suspicion. Meanwhile, her daughter Tanya comes closer to Varun while trying to come to terms with the sudden death of her mother.
The ending comes with its share of twists and surprises.
Reactions and experiences
Whenever I pick up a book by Ravi Subramanian, I am sure that I'll have an entire evening dedicated to his book. I wasn't disappointed in this case as well. The fact that both of us share the same corporate background of the banking industry, makes me oscillate towards his books even further.
I share with you few of the thoughts and highlights in this book which caught my attention,
On real wealth,
"I wish I had looked back. Life would have been different. We are all chasing illusory pleasures. Our real wealth is not in our bank accounts."
One particular thing which caught my attention was the missed call excuse. This was something which I have used quite often in my corporate life and I'm sure most of you out there have as well.
"Morning, Peter! Sorry I missed your calls. The phone was in silent mode." Irrespective of the level one was at in the organization, the excuses for not taking a call remained the same.
The infamous online black market, Silk Road, also finds its place in the book in the form of Cotton Trail. The author has done substantial amount of research in the areas of Bitcoins and its origins as well as the online TOR and Silk Road network. (The silk road creator recently got caught and is undergoing trial, a sign of things stemming from the book? Maybe.)
True to the author's penchant for financial crimes and thrillers, this book also uncovers many grey areas, corporate level tussles and individuals who turn to the dark and wrong side. The book should come as an eye opener to readers who are oblivious and unaware of the scams taking place in our corporate and financial services sector.
The intimate love making scenes looked more like fillers and the reading landscape could have been used in showing the thought processes of the main protagonists.
The final verdict
Go ahead and read this book before it gets turned into a Bollywood blockbuster.
Rating - 3.6/5
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