Summary and book reviews of Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra

Sacred Games

A Novel

by Vikram Chandra

Sacred Games
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2007, 928 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2008, 928 pages

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Book Summary

Vikram Chandra's novel draws the reader deep into the life of Inspector Sartaj Singh—and into the criminal underworld of Ganesh Gaitonde, the most wanted gangster in India. It is is a story of friendship and betrayal, of terrible violence, of an astonishing modern city and its dark side.

Seven years in the making, Sacred Games is an epic of exceptional richness and power. Vikram Chandra's novel draws the reader deep into the life of Inspector Sartaj Singh—and into the criminal underworld of Ganesh Gaitonde, the most wanted gangster in India.

Sartaj, one of the very few Sikhs on the Mumbai police force, is used to being identified by his turban, beard and the sharp cut of his trousers. But "the silky Sikh" is now past forty, his marriage is over and his career prospects are on the slide. When Sartaj gets an anonymous tip-off as to the secret hide-out of the legendary boss of G-Company, he's determined that he'll be the one to collect the prize.

Vikram Chandra's keenly anticipated new novel is a magnificent story of friendship and betrayal, of terrible violence, of an astonishing modern city and its dark side. Drawing inspiration from the classics of nineteenth-century fiction, mystery novels, Bollywood movies and Chandra's own life and research on the streets of Mumbai, Sacred Games evokes with devastating realism the way we live now but resonates with the intelligence and emotional depth of the best of literature.

Policeman's Day

A white Pomeranian named Fluffy flew out of a fifth-floor window in Panna, which was a brand-new building with the painter's scaffolding still around it. Fluffy screamed in her little lap-dog voice all the way down, like a little white kettle losing steam, bounced off the bonnet of a Cielo, and skidded to a halt near the rank of schoolgirls waiting for the St Mary's Convent bus. There was remarkably little blood, but the sight of Fluffy's brains did send the conventeers into hysterics, and meanwhile, above, the man who had swung Fluffy around his head by one leg, who had slung Fluffy into the void, one Mr Mahesh Pandey of Mirage Textiles, that man was leaning on his windowsill and laughing. Mrs Kamala Pandey, who in talking to Fluffy always spoke of herself as 'Mummy', now staggered and ran to her kitchen and plucked from the magnetic holder a knife nine inches long and two wide. When Sartaj and Katekar broke open the door to apartment 502, Mrs Pandey was standing in...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Manu Tewari, the screenwriter, tells Gaitonde that "a thriller has to start with the danger, tell the audience what they’re supposed to be scared of, what is at stake, and then it should race to the finish." Does Sacred Games obey these essential rules of the thriller? If it’s not a thriller, what is it?

     
  2. The French translator for Sacred Games, Johan-Frédérik Hel Geudj, noted that doublings and mirroring proliferate in the book – there is the pairing of the Sartag and Gaitonde (connected, of course, through the sisters Mary and Jojo), but then they each have two father-figures, and they each betray one of these father figures. What other doubles can you find in ...
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Reviews

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    (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews

The Washington Post

The enthusiasm with which the venerable firm of HarperCollins is promoting this massive deadweight of a novel, and the money that it's putting where its mouth is, leaves one to ponder once again the eternally mysterious ways of the book-publishing industry ...... Et cetera, et cetera. It may sound exciting and engaging, but it isn't, and when the novel's climax finally occurs, it's the most anticlimactic climax I can recall. But it is, perhaps, a fitting climax to a book that, for all its ambition and intelligence, ends up going nowhere at all.

The San Francisco Chronicle - Sandip Roy

Make no mistake, "Sacred Games" is a thriller. It has shootouts, sexy sirens, cops and robbers, double-crossers and hardboiled gutter-pungent lingo. It's not for the squeamis ....[but it] is also a cocky experiment with the conventions of a thriller, breaking every rule a film director tells Gaitonde is needed for a successful formula film. Chandra adds long insets that break up the narrative to go into the back stories of peripheral characters .... Unlike a whodunit, Chandra's plot is hydra-headed ....

Rocky Mountain News - Clayton Moore

With its striking prose, ruthless capacity for violence and Gordian composition, Sacred Games offers up a world worthy of the effort required to take it all in.

The Plain Dealer - Karen Long

The novel oscillates splendidly between its two central characters... Chandra makes an enormous meal of Mumbai, the metropolis once called Bombay, each ingredient sharp and memorable... The imagery can be stunning... submerging in [Sacred Games] like the Ganges itself, can restore your wonder.

Entertainment Weekly - Jennifer Reese

There's a superabundance of tumultuous narrative, acres of magnificent prose, and maybe a dozen too many characters. Yet these unruly parts ultimately fit together into a chaotic and luminous whole, one that mirrors Chandra's capacious vision of his homeland.

Elle magazine - Jenny Feldman

...thanks to its muscular prose and Chandra's obvious fondness for even his most deeply flawed characters, the book also succeeds as an entertainment extravaganza: a detective novel in full, and then a good deal more.

Publishers Weekly

The novel eventually becomes a world, and the reader becomes a resident rather than a visitor, but living there could begin to feel excessive.

Library Journal

Chandra also imbues his characters with humanity and color, even if his plot and writing style could do with tighter editing. Recommended.

Booklist - Donna Seaman

Starred Review. A splendidly big, finely made book destined to dazzle a big audience.

Kirkus Reviews

[Sacred Games] is Vikram Chandra's... stunning new novel... Chandra's writing is so elegant and so irresistible, it elevates the classic cops-and-robbers story to new heights.

The Scotsman - Stephen Thompson

All in all, this is a very patchy read. At the heart of the book is a very clever detective yarn which any crime writer would be proud of, but Chandra surrounds it with so much verbiage you could scream. Oh for a bit of judicious editing. At 900 pages, the book is too long. Chandra may have departed from the typical Indian novel in terms of subject matter, but when it comes to length, he reveals himself to be every bit the traditionalist. Sacred Games, alas, is the poorer because of this.

The Guardian - Kevin Rushby

Chandra works hard to keep the reader on board: after all, this is a mixed-up, muddled-up India where illiterate farmers chat on mobile phones and respectable people kill their daughters for marrying out of caste. It didn't, however, quite carry me all the way. Real-life Indian gangsters may have gone global, but somehow the world we enter later in the story - of high finance, hitmen and luxury yachts - seems best left to James Bond. Nevertheless, there is much to admire.

The Observer (UK) - Adams Mars-Jones

[Will] Chandra be able to etch into this second-hand template all the magical dirty details of the city? As the book goes on, the answer more and more seems to be 'yes', but Chandra could have made it easier on himself, not to mention the reader.

Reader Reviews

Judy Krueger

A Bollywood Thriller
Yes, this book is long. Yes, it is wordy and heavy to hold while reading. He uses many Indian words and though there is a glossary, it doesn't contain all the words he uses. But I liked it anyway. The story has two main characters. Inspector ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Vikram Chandra was born in 1961 in New Delhi. and completed most of his secondary education at the prestigious Mayo College boarding school in Ajmer, Rajasthan. After a short stay at St. Xavier's College in Mumbai, he came to the United States as an undergraduate student. In 1984, he graduated from Pomona College (in Claremont, near Los Angeles) with a magna cum laude BA in English, with a concentration in creative writing. He then attended the Film School at Columbia University in New York.

While in the Columbia library he ...

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