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Sacred Games: A Novel Hardcover – 2007

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers; American First edition (2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061130354
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061130359
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 5 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,863,910 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Mumbai in all its seedy glory is at the center of Vikram Chandra's episodic novel, which follows the fortunes of two opposing characters: the jaded Sikh policeman, Sartaj Singh, who first appeared in the story "Kama," and Ganesh Gaitonde, a famous Hindu Bhai who "dallied with bejewelled starlets, bankrolled politicians" and whose "daily skim from Bombay's various criminal dhandas was said to be greater than annual corporate incomes." Sartaj, still handsome and impeccably turned out, is now divorced, weary and resigned to his post, complicit in the bribes and police brutality that oil the workings of his city. Sartaj is ambivalent about his choices, but Gaitone is hungry for position and wealth from the moment he commits his first murder as a young man. A confrontation between the two men opens the novel, with Gaitonde taunting Sartaj from inside the protection of his strange shell-like bunker. Gaitonde is the more riveting character, and his first-person narrative voice lulls the reader with his intuitive understanding of human nature and the 1,001 tales of his rise to power, as he collects men, money and fame; creates and falls in love with a movie star; infiltrates Bollywood; works for Indian intelligence; matches wits with his Muslim rival, Suleiman Isa; and searches for fulfillment with the wily Guru Shridhar Shukla. Sartaj traces Gaitonde's movements and motivations, while taking on cases of murder, blackmail and neighborhood quarrels. The two men ruminate on the meaning of life and death, and Chandra connects them as he connects all the big themes of the subcontinent: the animosity of caste and religion, the poverty, the prostitution and mainly, the criminal elite, who organize themselves on the model of corporations and control their fiefdoms from outside the country. Chandra, who's won prizes and praise for his two previous books, Red Earth and Pouring Rain and Love and Longing in Bombay, spent seven years writing this 900-page epic of organized crime and the corruption that spins out from Mumbai into the world of international counterfeiting and terrorism, and it's obvious that he knows what he's talking about. He takes his chances creating atmosphere: the characters speak in the slang of the city ("You bhenchod sleepy son of maderchod Kumbhkaran," Gaitonde chastises). The novel eventually becomes a world, and the reader becomes a resident rather than a visitor, but living there could begin to feel excessive. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* "The game lasts, the game is eternal, the game cannot be stopped, the game gives birth to itself." So muses a veteran Indian intelligence officer on his deathbed, his devoted disciple, Anjila Mathur (one of many tough women characters), at his side. The games that Chandra choreographs in this riveting epic of Mumbai's underworld are far more profane than sacred, yet they do require some form of faith. Sensing that the legendary don Ganesh Gaitonde was involved in something far worse than the usual gangland activities, Anjilia covertly assigns police inspector Sartaj Singh to the case. Seen-it-all-weary yet disciplined, Sartaj is both ruthless and compassionate, and his acute awareness and street wisdom play in counterpoint to Ganesh's naked ambition. Chandra (Love and Longing in Bombay, 1997) has created a compulsively involving literary thriller by drawing on the Mahabharata and aiming for the amplitude of Victorian novels. He spins webs within webs, portrays a multitude of diverse characters, nets the complexity of a huge metropolis, and takes full measure of how the world really works. Corruption, murder, arms dealing, Bollywood, plastic surgery, and a superstar guru on an apocalyptic mission--all fuel this novel of crime and punishment, survival and annihilation. A splendidly big, finely made book destined to dazzle a big audience. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Sacred Games is a slightly more mainstream (read: mass-appealing) work than that of many other recent contemporary Indian writers. It blends styles starting with the very familiar "Indian", get deep-into-the-life and relationships and see the affects of mother India depiction of the main characters and then deftly incorporates storylines that veer into the action, spy, gangster, crime, romance and romance gone wrong genres. And Chandra does this seamlessly. At close to 900 pages I expected it to drag in areas but found that once I put it down, I couldn't wait to pick it up again. I felt that every single page was warranted.

This book challenges the reader to consider each character and their actions across the entire spectrum of grey as there is no black and white involved here... The gangster Ganesh is capable of very violent acts but doesn't view himself as bad, in fact he's trying to create a better self, if not move towards enlightenment while continuing to run his empire. The police officer Sartaj considers moving up through the police ranks, finds love and will do the right thing but still accepts bribes, looks away as other officers beat suspects and could even be accused of extortion. What is right and what is wrong? Who is good and who is evil? It depends on the reader's perception because none of the players view themselves as either. Pick your shade of grey and it's not easy.

This book crosses decades and countries. It ebbs and flows, rises and falls and in many cases shocks for very different reasons. What a well crafted story, what a great ride.
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Format: Hardcover
There is no doubt, at over 900 pages, this book may be a daunting challenge and I certainly do not envy any one who may have read it in hard cover. However, as the cliche goes, the result is worth the effort.
Part police proceedural and part travelogue of some of the high points and "low lifes" of Mumbai/Bombay it is one of my favourite books about any large city and its denizens. I read this right after "Shantaram". Afterwards I was able to discuss Bombay like a citizen with a friend of mine who had lived there in the 90's.
If you really want to come to some sort of feeling for this megalopolis read them both one right after the other. Shantaram offers hope and Sacred Games offers none so be warned.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars 111 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Book Oct. 16 2010
By Oliver - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I just finished Sacred Games on my Kindle. At first I thought it slow, but it then started coming together. As each character was introduced and unvailed I marveled at how the author had presented such a clear, moving and in-depth view of the person. I was moved by different scenes from tears to laughter. I could relate to the madness presented in Gaitonde. I began to understand better the economic system of bribes and payoffs and how integral it is to that society. I can relate to the strength it takes to overcome the many economic and cultural disadvantages people face in that part of the world. I was sorry that during my career, when I traveled to India and Pakistan that I had not taken time to probe and learn more about each person I worked with -- a missed opportunity. I appreciated the author wrapping up each character and event at the close of the book. I wish I had known that the Indian terms were explained in the back of the book, however as I read on I felt that I understood some of the meanings. Well worth reading. Oliver
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My personal primer for 21st century India May 14 2008
By Theseus Augustus - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
For years I have been looking for a book that would give me that detailed, street-level view of everyday life in 21st century India. This book has quenched an old thirst.

This is my first Chandra novel, and I have not yet read Shantaram but am looking forward to reading that as well. The way I discovered this book was searching for Hindi slang on Google, which led me to Chandra's glossary for the book. For many people, the presence of a 72 page glossary PDF for a novel would be a disincentive. But I *knew*, looking at the glossary, that I needed to read this book, and the hours I have put into this book have been very worthwhile. I now have a detailed image of what it means to be a modern, urban Indian.

I confess I am an Indophile with a strong interest in contemporary culture, and I am not sure I would have had the stamina to finish this book had I not had an abiding interest in urban India and the language and symbols of the era. Having to look up another word at least once for nearly every page of this novel has been a challenge, but also a pleasure; for I am now so in love with those words that I have committed most of the glossary to my own language study program.

I feel a deep kinship with other readers who have finished the 900 pages, and taken the time to learn the symbol set with which Chandra explores modern Bombay. Haven't we all been through quite an adventure together? I also fervently hope that this book, and others such as Shantaram, will ignite a flurry of new works of fiction exploring the beauty and horror of the great megalopolises of Asia. Such a wonderful, and terrifying, time to be alive!

I strongly advise readers check out Chandra's website and download the PDF glossary; the glossary found at the end of the book is incomplete.

I strongly recommend this book for students of Hindi looking for real language; so many language courses still use texts that are archaic and useless for the study of idiomatic communication and street vernacular. The Hinglish (Indian English) alone in this book is priceless and a very useful resource.

One final note. This book has given me a renewed interest in Bollywood cinema, as I have a much stronger sense of the importance of filmi culture to Indians, and why the movies are structured the way they are. I confess sometimes being impatient with the pace and maudlin, earnest tone of many Indian films. I now find I appreciate them much better because of the context that this novel has given me.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Visiting India Oct. 31 2009
By B. Ambrose - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I absolutely loved every moment of this book. Its complicated and messy at times, but I think that's why I felt like I was experiencing the real India. The writing is extremely evocative and I often thought that I could smell the place. There were times when just the smallest turn of a phrase made me stop so that I could just be with the words. I thought the characterizations were amazing and I love that even the smallest characters are fully created. Knowing each one's history so well really gave the reader insight into their behavior and motivation. Collectively, this gave me a great sense of the culture. I also thought that the novel had an interesting spiritual element about it and gave me insight into the different religions that have shaped the culture over time. I found it fascinating from the very first page and thought it was well worth the investment of time and energy.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some En-Chandra Evening.... Jan. 13 2009
By Tanstaafl - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Several evenings, actually. This is a 900 page book that delves into the inner reaches of the characters lives. You will get to know some of them better than you know some of your close family members.

The seedy side of Mumbai is portrayed in minute and sometimes violent detail. Even the "good guys" are "bad guys" sometimes; and the "bad guys" aren't so bad on occasion.

If you do not like character studies, you may want to pass on this one. However, you will miss out on a wonderfully written study of a part of the world you don't normally see. Don't let the length turn you away, though. The book flows well and unlike too many books of this length, it doesn't drag halfway through. You'll be at the end before you know it. It even has a somewhat helpful glossary, but didn't include enough translations.
5.0 out of 5 stars READ THIS BOOK April 2 2007
By Deirdre A. Le Blanc - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
IF you enjoyed Shantaram, you will love this book. Chandra delves a bit deeper into the philosophies and prejudices inherent in the minds of the many ethnic groups in India, and especially those in Mumbai. This novel is beautifully written, and the first I've read of his. I will now be reading all of Vikram Chandra's books.

Yes, Sacred Games is 900 pages long, but every page is a gem. There is also a small glossary at the back to help you with Hindi words and phrases, although not every word is given a definition.

Because of his many references to Bollywood films (far more than those in Shantaram) I have now begun to rent a long list of Indian films. I wish I had begun to see them while I was reading the book, because actually knowing the music and hearing it in my head would have really helped set the mood a little bit better.

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