Sacred Games
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Sacred Games

3.9 22
by Vikram Chandra
     
 

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A policeman, a criminal overlord, a Bollywood film star, beggars, cultists, spies, and terrorists—the lives of the privileged, the famous, the wretched, and the bloodthirsty interweave with cataclysmic consequences amid the chaos of modern-day Mumbai, in this soaring, uncompromising, and unforgettable epic masterwork of literary art.

Overview

A policeman, a criminal overlord, a Bollywood film star, beggars, cultists, spies, and terrorists—the lives of the privileged, the famous, the wretched, and the bloodthirsty interweave with cataclysmic consequences amid the chaos of modern-day Mumbai, in this soaring, uncompromising, and unforgettable epic masterwork of literary art.

Editorial Reviews

Sven Birkerts
“Page after page it plucks me from the here and now.”
Sandip Roy
“Chandra gives a startling, blood-pumping fallible humanity to his characters.”
Eric Ormsby
“One of the most brilliant...tales I’ve read in years...SACRED GAMES is compulsively readable.”
John Freeman
“A terrific, brilliant earthmover of a book. Crime and Punishment crossed with The Godfather, with some Sopranos-inspired irony.””
Carl Bromley
“Electrifying…Chandra pulls off some extraordinary writing…He…hands us the keys to the city and reveals its sordid mysteries.”
Maureen Corrigan
“Bold, fresh and big…SACRED GAMES deserves praise for its ambitions but also for its terrific achievement.”
Bruce Allen
“It’s a rare pleasure to be arrested by this novel’s thunderous momentum...Few readers will be unenthralled.”
People
“Ambitious, sprawling...combines the attractions of 19th-century fiction and a modern police procedural.”
Elle
“A genre-bending, multilayered saga...expertly paced and nuanced...A sheer entertainment extravaganza.”
Parade
“Spiced with flavors of the subcontinent, this epic novel-part crime thriller, part human drama, part travelogue-is entirely entertaining.”
Newsweek International Edition
“Unstinting in its ambition...flourishing in its characters…[An] intriguing act of literary decolonization…Sacred Games is cinematic in scope.”
Newsday
“SACRED GAMES envisions a world—an underworld actually—that is complete, persuasive, and startlingly original.”
Booklist (starred review)
“Riveting...A splendidly big, finely made book destined to dazzle a big audience.”
Houston Chronicle
“Unfailingly interesting…Superbly realized…The novel bursts with characters…I almost never wanted to put it down.”
Los Angeles Times
“Chandra…knows exactly when to break rules and when to follow them…Chandra’s genius is in the way he trusts his reader.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“SACRED GAMES won’t deliver nirvana, but submerging in it, like the Ganges itself, can restore your wonder.”
ABC magazine
“A classical Bombay underworld epic...Raymond Chandler with songs.”
Globe and Mail (Toronto)
“Rich...Utterly convincing..A monumental portrait of interwoven lives that lingers with a reader long after the case is closed.”
BookPage
“Exhilaratingly ambitious and entertaining…[A] vivid portrait of the clash and jangle and excitement of modern-day Mumbai.”
Wall Street Journal
“Monumental…Chandra brilliantly evokes...Mumbai...in all its vibrant chaos.”
Blogcritics.org Books
“Masterfully crafted fiction…the resonance and elegance...of his writing…put across the full vulnerability and humanity of his characters.”
Grand Rapids Press
“Superb…complex, mesmerizing...a full-immersion experience, as if Dickens had written THE GODFATHER and placed it in India.”
Rocky Mountain News
“Intoxicating... SACRED GAMES offers up a world worthy of the effort required to take it all in.”
New York magazine
“makes palpable a very foreign city, explores deep moral questions...BUY IT.”
Sunday Oregonian
“Dazzling…Chandra’s sure-handed writing injects the novel with layers of depth and meaning.”
San Diego Union-Tribune
“A work of masterfully crafted fiction...a gritty and grounded epic reminiscent of voluminous and character-rich nineteenth century literature.”
Seattle Times
“A pulsing thriller...Quite enough to enrapture a reader for 900 pages...the payoff is grand and satisfying.”
Salon.com
“Exquisite...A passionate tribute to contemporary India.”
Entertainment Weekly
“Ravishing…Extraordinary...A chaotic and luminous whole.”
New York Times
“As sprawling as the heat-drenched city it richly portrays.”
New York Times Book Review
“SACRED GAMES [is] as hard to put down as it is to pick up.”
Daily News
“The pacing and mother lode of cinematic details in the narrative make the journey...worth taking, even more than once.”
San Antonio Express-News
“A remarkable blend of literary novel and potboiler.”
Atlantic Monthly
“Well-written entertainment…a plot of Victorian complexity.”
Denver Post
“A grand story...carefully and passionately told…The temptation upon turning the last page will be to return to the first.”
Tennessean
“Lavish, accomplished, and…elegant…[SACRED GAMES] offers Western readers a panoramic view of contemporary India.”
Christian Science Monitor
“An irresistible story that you simply cannot keep out of your head...It is, more than anything else, literary magic.”
The author's million-dollar advance may have jump-started the buzz for this book, but we think Vikram Chandra's ambitious Indian crime novel more than measures up to its hype. At a whopping 900-plus pages, Sacred Games is a heavyweight in every sense of the word. Tracing the confrontation between powerful underworld crime boss Ganesh Gaitonde and Sartaj Singh, the world-weary policeman introduced in Chandra's 1997 short story collection, Love and Longing in Bombay, this sprawling epic meanders across the changing landscape of 20th-century India. Exciting, audacious, and challenging (untranslated Indian slang appears throughout), this Don DeLillo–styled literary thriller captivates from first page to last.
Paul Gray
By paying homage to both Ian Fleming and James Joyce, Chandra risks alienating the constituencies of each — of writing a thriller that’s too serious and a serious novel that’s too much in thrall to an absurd story. But in the post-9/11 era, madmen intent on blowing up all or even a small part of the world don’t seem quite as unrealistic as they once did. If you keep that in mind, you may find Sacred Games as hard to put down as it is to pick up.
— The New York Times
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 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The city is Mumbai, but given the methods both cops and gangsters use in the illegal pursuit of money and the way young women use their bodies to climb the ladder to stardom in the film industry, one would think that the story is set in New York or California. Chandra (Love and Longing in Bombay) introduces us to Ganesh Gaitonde, a Hindu outlaw whose rise and subsequent fall from power in a triad is like a roller-coaster ride, and Sartaj Singh, a Sikh policeman investigating Gaitonde's possible involvement with terrorism. Chandra's gangster world is dynamic, occasionally absurd, and replete with social commentary and philosophic observations, but his cops appear aimless and melodramatic. Nevertheless, while his pen wanders between bloodbath and the kind of mixed-up romance you might find in pop fiction, he does manage to transcend the traditional crime caper by relating the novel to a wide range of contemporary issues, including the relationships among heroism, religion, and terrorism. Chandra also imbues his characters with humanity and color, even if his plot and writing style could do with tighter editing. Recommended for public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/06.]-Victor Or, Vancouver & Surrey P.L., B.C. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Globe & Mail (Toronto)
"Rich...Utterly convincing..A monumental portrait of interwoven lives that lingers with a reader long after the case is closed."
Newsweek (International Edition)
"Unstinting in its ambition...flourishing in its characters…[An] intriguing act of literary decolonization…Sacred Games is cinematic in scope."
Booklist
"Riveting...A splendidly big, finely made book destined to dazzle a big audience."
New York Magazine
"makes palpable a very foreign city, explores deep moral questions...BUY IT."
ABC Magazine
"A classical Bombay underworld epic...Raymond Chandler with songs."
People Magazine
"Ambitious, sprawling...combines the attractions of 19th-century fiction and a modern police procedural."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061130366
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
12/01/2007
Series:
P.S. Series
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
992
Sales rank:
841,108
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.58(d)

Read an Excerpt

Sacred Games

A Novel
By Vikram Chandra

HarperCollins

Copyright © 2007 Vikram Chandra
All right reserved.




Chapter One

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 front of the bedroom door, looking intensely at a dense circle of two-inch-long wounds in the wood, about chest-high. As Sartaj watched, she sighed, raised her hand and stabbed the door again. She had to struggle with both hands on the handle to get the knife out.

'Mrs Pandey,' Sartaj said.

She turned to them, the knife still in a double-handed grip, held high. She had a pale, tear-stained face and tinybare feet under her white nightie.

'Mrs Pandey, I am Inspector Sartaj Singh,' Sartaj said. 'I'd like you to put down that knife, please.' He took a step, hands held up and palms forward. 'Please,' he said. But Mrs Pandey's eyes were wide and blank, and except for the quivering of her forearms she was quite still. The hallway they were in was narrow, and Sartaj could feel Katekar behind him, wanting to pass. Sartaj stopped moving. Another step and he would be comfortably within a swing of the knife.

'Police?' a voice said from behind the bedroom door. 'Police?'

Mrs Pandey started, as if remembering something, and then she said, 'Bastard, bastard,' and slashed at the door again. She was tired now, and the point bounced off the wood and raked across it, and Sartaj bent her wrist back and took the knife quite easily from her. But she smashed at the door with her hands, breaking her bangles, and her last wiry burst of anger was hard to hold and contain. Finally they sat her down on the green sofa in the drawing room.

'Shoot him,' she said. 'Shoot him.' Then she put her head in her hands. There were green and blue bruises on her shoulder. Katekar was back at the bedroom door, murmuring.

'What did you fight about?' Sartaj said.

'He wants me not to fly any more.'

'What?'

'I'm an air-hostess. He thinks ...'

'Yes?'

She had startling light-brown eyes, and she was angry at Sartaj for asking. 'He thinks since I'm an air hostess, I keep hostessing the pilots on stopovers,' she said, and turned her face to the window.

Katekar was walking the husband over now, with a hand on his neck. Mr Pandey hitched up his silky red-and-black striped pyjamas, and smiled confidentially at Sartaj. 'Thank you,' he said. 'Thanks for coming.'

'So you like to hit your wife, Mr Pandey?' Sartaj barked, leaning forward. Katekar sat the man down, hard, while he still had his mouth open. It was nicely done. Katekar was a senior constable, an old subordinate, a colleague really - they had worked together for almost seven years now, off and on. 'You like to hit her, and then you throw a poor puppy out of a window? And then you call us to save you?'

'She said I hit her?'

'I have eyes. I can see.'

'Then look at this,' Mr Pandey said, his jaw twisting. 'Look, look, look at this.' And he pulled up his left pyjama jacket sleeve, revealing a shiny silver watch and four evenly spaced scratches, livid and deep, running from the inside of the wrist around to the elbow. 'More, I've got more,' Mr Pandey said, and bowed low at the waist and lowered his head and twisted to raise his collar away from the skin. Sartaj got up and walked around the coffee table. There was a corrugated red welt on Mr Pandey's shoulder blade, and Sartaj couldn't see how far down it went.

'What's that from?' Sartaj said.

'She broke a Kashmiri walking stick on my back. This thick, it was,' Mr Pandey said, holding up his thumb and forefinger circled.

Sartaj walked to the window. There was a group of uniformed boys clustering around the small white body below, pushing each other closer to it. The St Mary's girls were squealing, holding their hands to their mouths, and begging the boys to stop. In the drawing room, Mrs Pandey was gazing brightly at her husband, her chin tucked into her chest. 'Love,' Sartaj said softly. 'Love is a murdering gaandu. Poor Fluffy.'

'Namaskar, Sartaj Saab,' PSI Kamble called across the station house. 'Parulkar Saab was asking after you.' The room was some twenty-five feet across, with four desks lined up across the breadth of it. There was a six-foot poster of Sai Baba on the wall, and a Ganesha under the glass on Kamble's desk, and Sartaj had felt impelled to add a picture of Guru Gobind Singh on the other wall, in a somewhat twisted assertion of secularism.

Five constables came jerkily to attention, and then subsided into their usual sprawl on white plastic chairs.

'Where is Parulkar Saab?'

'With a pack of reporters. He's giving them tea and telling them about our new initiative against crime.'

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra Copyright © 2007 by Vikram Chandra. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are saying about this

Sandip Roy
“Chandra gives a startling, blood-pumping fallible humanity to his characters.”
John Freeman
“A terrific, brilliant earthmover of a book. Crime and Punishment crossed with The Godfather, with some Sopranos-inspired irony.””
Eric Ormsby
“One of the most brilliant...tales I’ve read in years...SACRED GAMES is compulsively readable.”
Bruce Allen
“It’s a rare pleasure to be arrested by this novel’s thunderous momentum...Few readers will be unenthralled.”
Carl Bromley
“Electrifying…Chandra pulls off some extraordinary writing…He…hands us the keys to the city and reveals its sordid mysteries.”
Maureen Corrigan
“Bold, fresh and big…SACRED GAMES deserves praise for its ambitions but also for its terrific achievement.”
Sven Birkerts
“Page after page it plucks me from the here and now.”

Meet the Author

Vikram Chandra is the author of the novel Red Earth and Pouring Rain (Commonwealth Writers' Prize; David Higham Prize), and the short story collection Love and Longing in Bombay (Commonwealth Writers' Prize; New York Times Notable Book). Born in New Delhi, he divides his time between Mumbai and Berkeley, where he teaches at the University of California.

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Sacred Games 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Dyerfan More than 1 year ago
The author presupposes that one has a familiarity with Indian Culture and words. When he said that something smelled like Gur, I had no idea if that was good or bad (is it sweet food or excrement?) and that's just one of many examples. I found that it was just too difficult googling words so often and that took away from my reading enjoyment. I don't always read near a computer. I read books to learn something or to enjoy the reading experience for entertainment. The plot and characters of Sacred Games were so interesting that I wish I could read the rest of the story, but alas, I'm giving the book away.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As huge as this novel is, it still surprises me that the author managed to put this much story into 900 pages. I saw at least 3 distinct novels in this piece, but I am glad that it is all combined in one volume. Vikram Chandra has amazing talent, and leaves no stone unturned in his writing. This novel is impressive, well written, and thought provoking. A great effort from a great author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I must day that I could not finish Vikram Chandra's first novel 'Red Earth and Pouring Rain'. This one is fantastic, there is no other word to describe it at all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book.
LovestoReadinIndiana More than 1 year ago
Just started reading this huge novel and wanted to let future readers (and Dyerfan) know that there is a glossary in the back of the book to help w/unfamiliar words.
PainFrame More than 1 year ago
What are you thinking of, bhai?  I like epic stories, I like big books, I like the setting of Bombay, I even like the way Vikram Chandra writes, but I don’t like this book. I can’t help but feel that this story could have benefited from a more concise edit. There’s WAY too much stuff in here that doesn’t matter; scattered throughout the book are tangent chapters which only incidentally relate to the main characters or the story! If a meandering story with lots of flavor appeals to you, maybe you can enjoy it, but for me this story felt like too much work with little payoff. Never again.
babsbabsbabs More than 1 year ago
Worthy of Worship. An incredable epic novel. The effort you put into reading this very long novel is worth every minute. A real rodeo.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just a great story. Great writing, great characters, plot, backstories, etc. Great descriptions of Mumbai and India, but they were never dull. The setting was as compelling a character as any of the characters themselves.
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Hill_Ravens More than 1 year ago
A journey into another land, where things are familiar on the surface but become darker and more perilous the further you wander. I knew nothing of the Indian culture going into the book and was pleasantly surprised by some of the cultural and historical (implied) situations and positions discussed in the book. The characters were developed a little slowly at first and once the book gets going, it was easy to pick out my favorites. At times it felt like there was too much detail in the writing, yet it all managed to come together in the end, and I don't think it would have without the extra details up front. I loved the side stories interjected throughout the main story and how they nicely tied into and related back to the overall adventure being pursued by the characters. It was refreshing and felt more honest to have all the threads of the journey weave together at the end without a bow or clichéd ending. I really enjoyed the various arenas the book explores: gangsters, families, religion, commerce, governments and their agencies, teachers, rebels, kids all wrapped together with the same goal in their hearts but a thousand different ways to obtain it. On one level Sacred Games is fine example of religion being twisted and used to manipulate and remove opposition. My only recommendation would be to use the glossary at the back of the book from the start. I never look at the back cause I don't want to ruin the ending.
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