The bestseller she wrote by Ravi Subramanian

This is now the third book by Mr. Subramanian that I have reviewed, courtesy of the wonderful folk at Blogadda. As befits a former banker, banking plays a definite role in Mr. Subramanian’s novel, as it did in his earlier books, The Bankster and God is a Gamer, but this time banking is more the backdrop, the corporate setting for the complex, gripping tale.  The corridors of corporate power are just part of the world of Mumbai-based middle-aged banker Aditya, who is also a hugely successful novelist.  This likeable, affable man transitions from corporate honcho to rockstar status writer with ease and remarkable humility, and with his loving nuclear family acting as his sounding board, Aditya truly does seem to have it all.

Until he gets entangled with a young woman.  The story of Aditya falling for Shreya is hardly the first time that a pretty woman has derailed the marriage of a middle-aged man, dazzled by the attention paid to him by a younger woman.

In the case of Shreya, however, the dominant figure in this novel, it is not just a question of a beautiful young girl ensnaring a middle-aged man, for Shreya is the complete package – super bright, slim, attractive, a business school graduate and a budding writer to boot.  From the moment we meet her, we realize that Shreya is also outspoken and determined to get her own way.

We the readers are, from the outset, more aware of what seems to be the dark side of Shreya’s ambitions and I know I, for one, kept willing Aditya not to be so trusting and loving, wanting him to see what this manipulative young woman was up to.  I don’t want to spoil the plot in any way, but trust me that the build up of the relationship between Aditya and Shreya is cleverly crafted by the talented Mr. Subramanian.  We are aware that Aditya is heading into ever deeper and more dangerous waters, but he seems maddeningly oblivious.  Enough clues are shown to us, whereas Aditya seems blind to them.  Lovely as Aditya is –  and he truly a nice, totally likable, empathetic man – I kept wanting to shake him by the shoulders and say “Wake up, man.  Just look at what she is doing!”.  But of course you can’t do that to a character in a book, so you read on, hoping and praying that Aditya avoids the pitfalls looming in front of him…and that’s as far as I’m going, otherwise I’ll be labelled a plot-spoiler.

The writing is crisp and to the point, though there are a few sloppy editing errors – mainly wrong spacing after commas, that kind of visually irritating thing.  A writer of Mr. Subramanian’s stature deserves better from his editor.

The plot is cleverly crafted with not one but several last minute twists in the tale, that keep your attention right to the very last pages.  The author has used last minute twists to great effects in his earlier novels, so I was sort of expecting one, but this one was totally unexpected.

I loved the insights into the world of publishing, which brought to life the process that takes place after the words are written.  I also loved the author’s trademark clever use of technology in the plot –  and if it’s not revealing too much (hope not!) if ever there was case for being vigilant about what you say or don’t say on your mobile phone…

Recommended.

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GOD IS A GAMER by RAVI SUBRAMANIAN

What a very clever and intriguing whodunnit this book is.  A financial thriller, involving banking (yes, indeed, banking of all things) and gaming and bitcoins and politics and death and love  – and the whole combo makes for a great read.

This is the second book by Mr. Subramanian that I have been asked to review, and one thing is patently clear  –  the writer has got himself a way better editor this time round.  When I reviewed “The Bankster” I commented on the poor editing that did Mr. Subramanians’s fine writing  no favours.

No such issues this time round.

So, the story.  I can’t tell you anthing about the ins and outs of the plot, now can I, since this is, after all, a story involving murder and crime on a massive scale, so any plot spoilers would be, well, just downright criminal.

Mumbai, Washington DC, New York, Goa –  the action shifts between these places, involving a cast of Indians and Americans.  The story unfolds in short crisply written chapters, as we explore worlds that were totally unknown to me before  – the worlds of gaming and of bitcoins.  “God is a Gamer” reveals to us the highest levels of finance and politics, top secret computing and the virtual bitcoin economy.  The story centres around high-level technology, but manages not to baffle the reader.  Take me, for example – I knew next to nothing about gaming and bitcoins –  and yet never felt excluded from the story.  Enough was explained to bring me up to speed, without the storyline being slowed down.  Good writing, if ever there was.

The gradual drawing together of all the different threads in this tangled, dangerous, intercontinental web – politics and romance and computing and terrorism and murder and the FBI and banking – is cleverly done.  But I can’t tell you how or why, or it would spoil a great story.

If I have one teensy weensy caveat, it is that the end seems rushed.  Throughout the book, the writer maintains a detailed pace, leading us slowly and carefully ever deeper and deeper into the dark heart of his story, and then all of a sudden, it’s over.  There’s a quick bit of mopping-up in the epilogue, telling us which characters went where and did what and where they ended up, but I felt a bit cheated.  I would much rather have had a longer read, and no quick wrapping up.

But there is one great twist, right at the end.  Really clever.

 

I certainly learned a lot from this novel, because of course I googled bitcoins and TOR and Satoshi Nakamoto.

And they all exist.

Which makes me wonder, of course, what else and who else also really exists outside the pages of this book…

 

Recommended.

 

Just published by Penguin, the paperback of “God is a Gamer” costs Rs299 (real money, not bitcoins).

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THE BANKSTER BY RAVI SUBRAMANIAN

 

The blurb on the cover of  Ravi Subramanian’s 5th book “The Bankster” talks of “the John Grisham of banking”.

Like John Grisham, Mr. Subramanian certainly knows his facts and figures in his appointed area of expertise, that’s for sure. So there is that much in common with Mr. Grisham.

But what Mr. Subramanian desperately needs is a better editor.

Shoddy, sloppy editing marred what is otherwise a deeply researched, complex tale of banking skullduggery on a massive scale.

I didn’t count, but  (and I think I’m correct) every time the author wrote “at least,” this is what we got :

 

That is just downright poor editing, and unworthy of someone of Mr. Subramanian’s obvious intelligence.

The novel ranges between Mumbai, Vienna, Kerala and Africa, with 3 stories running parallel. The Mumbai sections are far and away the strongest, which is hardly surprising, since the author was a banker for 20 years and lives in Mumbai, so there was an intensity and authenticity about the Mumbai sections.  The Mumbai voices rang true.

Mr. Subramanian’s attention to banking detail is impressive, and you never for a moment doubt the accuracy and the authenticity of the plot.  Banking scams happen the world over, that we all know, and the plot of “The Bankster” unravels a complex tale of financial deceit on a truly massive, deeply embedded scale.

The Kerala story, about a nuclear power station and the manipulative politics of protest, is touching, but it was only in the final paragraphs that I joined the dots.  Perhaps I am a little dim, but a few pointers would certainly have helped me.  As it was, I spent most of the book wondering why and when and where Kerala and Mumbai would intertwine.  It ultimately makes total, satisfying sense, but only in the dying seconds of the book.

The same can be said of the African section, though those dots were joined for me in the Vienna part of the story – I obviously can’t tell you the ins and outs of the plot, otherwise the intricate storyline of “The Bankster” will be spoiled for you.  Suffice it to say that, once again, I could have wished for the African section to be a tad stronger.

But the Mumbai sections can’t be faulted for their painstaking attention to detail, which is why they are faster-paced and dominate the book.  There is something enthralling about reading a novel that purportedly took place earlier this year –  all those dates and times at the beginning of the chapters bringing the action ever closer certainly make things exciting.

Technology plays a large part in the book, which is only natural given the way banking has evolved, and so most of the young bankers in the story use their mobiles and laptops and iPads and iPhones and Blackberries and voice mails as seamlessly as we, the readers, do.

And I also fully understand that the author needs to make sure all his readers are up to (technological speed) especially when technology is vital to the plot, but just occasionally the otherwise natural style of writing faltered :

 

 

This sounds more like a technical note, rather than a natural dialogue, which is a shame.

Ditto the supposed conversation below :

 

 A good read.

A clever, intricate plot.

But a plea to the publishers, Rupa – please, don’t let poor editing mar good writing.

Published in 2012 by Rupa, the paperback of “The Bankster” costs Rs 250.

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