Let me confess, at the outset, that I am a huge fan of Ravi Subramanian's books. His 'The Incredible Banker' remains one of my favourite books till date. I also happened to win an autographed copy of 'Devil In Pinstripes' in one of the contests on Twitter.
The blurb of 'God Is A Gamer' states: What happens when you cross gamer, banker, politician and terrorist with virtual money? From the bestselling author of If God Was a Banker comes the first ever bitcoin thriller. God Is a Gamer is a world where money means nothing, martyrs are villains, predators are prey, assassination is taught by the ancient Greeks, and nothing is as it seems. Moving from Washington's Congress to Delhi's finance ministry, the beaches of Goa to the corporate boardrooms of Mumbai, this is Ravi Subramanian's most gripping novel yet.
The premise of the novel is definitely interesting – a thriller that connects an ATM heist in New York with a website Cotton Trail which enables transactions in bitcoins to the addictive world of online gaming and the workings of multinational banks and the hacking risks they are exposed to. The story connects the murder of a senator in Washington with the suicide (?) of the CEO of a MNC bank in India to a hit-and-run case and laptop users getting burnt due to overheating of their machines. It is quite unusual in the sense that it moves effortlessly across seemingly disparate incidents and distinct locations (Washington, Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, Ukraine, New York City, Sangamner, Stanford, etc.)
The book is certainly a page-thriller and I finished it in almost one sitting; the chapters are shorter and crisper compared to his earlier novels and make for easier reading. I liked how he has incorporated into the story the tale of how Socrates died; I also liked the way John Keats' 'Ode to a Nightingale' appeared in the narrative. All the characters such as Aditya, Varun, Tanya, Swami, Malvika, Sundeep,etc. were developed quite well with their mannerisms and intricacies told in a detailed fashion. Ravi has quite intelligently given the characters real-life names: Vijay Banga (President, Mastercard International) sounds similar to Ajay Banga, CEO of Mastercard; Aditya Rao (pioneer in banking in India) sounds similar to Aditya Puri, MD of HDFC Bank; Malvika Sehgal, CEO of New York International Bank could be any of the leading female bank CEOs in India currently – Chanda Kochhar, Shikha Sharma, Kalpana Morparia, etc.
Ravi has done quite a bit of research while writing this book – explaining the intricacies and technicalities of bitcoins (digital currency which not many are familiar with yet) and online gaming (including advertising it on Facebook and the manner in which it generates revenues). However, sometimes it got too technical for me and I had to re-read entire paragraphs to try and understand what was being said.
I felt the author has tried so hard to write about multiple elements that it has become quite a mish-mash. At times, it became quite difficult to keep track of who was who and what role that person had played so far in the story. Combining so many elements into a single story meant that no story really grew on its own; it seemed as if all of them were stretched liberally to connect in the end.
Also, there were quite a few grammatical and spelling errors in the book. For instance on Page 36, the sentence reads as “It was only on her mother's insistence that had she come back to India in the intervening period.” The word deposition is misspelled as depostion on Page 196. On Page 219, the sentence reads as “She couldn't take her eyes of the glittering diamond ring.” Towards the end, it appeared as though the author was in a rush to finish the book – the last chapter seems to be written hurriedly, almost in bullet points-like sentences.
All in all, the book makes a good read but I would not call it one of the author's best works till date. Read it to enlighten yourself about the intricate web of online gaming, bitcoins and banks' security systems.
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