T. Scott's Reviews > Sacred Games

Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra
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's review
Sep 13, 2007

really liked it
Recommended for: anyone

This is, as many have no doubt noted, a long book. I read at night before I go to bed, so this was a long read for me, but I looked forward to being pulled into it each night. I won't describe the plot because you can find it elsewhere, except to say that its setting is Bombay (Mumbai) and that it's a book of dual identities -- cop and mobster -- and depicts each with varying degrees of sympathy, empathy and sadness. I felt both were at the core melancholy figures looking for something. One thinks he won't find it and one thinks he has but really hasn't. I should also mention that the author has chosen to fill almost every other sentence with Indian street slang, profanity, and other phrases. The language is a s colorful (i.e. filthy) as a Scorsese movie, even in various Indian languages, for which there is a useful partial lexicon in the back. I don't know if cussing in Hindi will ever be useful, but I feel like I could toss around a few good ones.

I think the author defined and expanded a little more fully on the mobster character and I found the scene at his death (revealed in part at the very beginning) a heart-breaking in what it revealed about the fragility and ease of self-delusion. There is a nuance in the way that the characters are written that gives (some if not most of) them a real grounding in reality.

The book is, at times, beautifully written, but maybe a tad over-populated. It reminds me in it's scope of Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, in that the author here fully creates an expansive and detailed world where for his characters to move around in and includes several levels of back-story for many characters and even some secondary ones. Some of this takes the story off-track, but whether that's good or bad depends on if you're reading the book just to finish it or to enjoy the world he's created.

I must say that it stayed with me for a few days after I finished it, which I always take as a good sign.
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