Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Book Review: Behind The Silicon Mask - Eshwar Sundaresan

As the name of the novel suggests, it pertains to the lives of people working in the IT industry as the word ‘silicon’ has come to be associated with IT.

The blurb of the book mentions the following: A serial killer targeting immigrants. A record-shattering snowstorm that aids his cold mission. A community of two hundred Indian IT professionals under siege. A rapacious corporate employer, an unflinching deadline and a boss willing to risk anything. A tale-twist in every living room and bedroom. A bleak, fateful Friday that brings together all these elements and changes lives forever.

The novel begins in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States, where the two protagonists Partho Sen and Varun Belthangady, Indian IT professionals who work with CIKS, Bangalore, are currently posted at Mayflower Mercantile. Partho is at his home, watching the snow outside and unable to sleep; Varun is hard at work because he has a project deadline to meet. They share a house in one of the housing complexes close to their place of work, along with many other Indians who also work at Mayflower.

Milwaukee is troubled by a serial killer who has so far killed three people and ends up killing his fourth victim – a Singaporean student. Based on the data available, the police are able to piece together the fact that the killer’s targets are immigrants working in the United States.

Along with these two primary characters, the novel features a host of other characters including Becky Dalton (Varun’s colleague in the project), Stephanie Zachary (a news reporter), Detective Farley and his assistants Larry Oates and Josh Eiken, Laks Deshpande, Rashmi (Partho’s girlfriend), Arpita (Varun’s girlfriend), etc.

How all the characters’ lives intersect; how their lives are at risk at the hands of the serial killer and whether the police are able to nab him before he ends up taking more lives forms the rest of the novel.

The genre of the novel is that of a thriller. I found it to be a page-turner and finished it in almost one sitting. Since the novel primarily focuses on IT, the author has included a lot of jargon pertaining to software development and project testing. Also, the novel moves effortlessly from Milwaukee to Bangalore as it shapes the stories of the different people.

The author has seamlessly pieced together the intricacies of human relationships – between a boss and a colleague; between Partho and his girlfriend and Varun and his girlfriend; a husband and his trophy wife; colleagues working together across different time zones. It also dwells upon how, for a corporate, a deadline is so important that it may overlook a hidden danger to its employees. The author also touches upon how the power of public relations is able to make a company or an individual; what one sees is not always what the reality is.

I found the book to be an easy and an interesting read. The theme is unique and there are quite a few episodes and events which crisscross to lead us to the climax. What I did not like, however, is the fact that there are so many characters; it becomes difficult to remember who is who in the middle of the book. I believe the book would not have lost its integral plot had it done away with a few characters.

Overall the book is definitely worth a read. I am going with a rating of 4/5. The book was able to hold my interest for most part (except where it got a little technical).

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!


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