Sacred Games, Vikram Chandra, HarperCollins Publishers, 2007, 900 pp
Yes, this book is long. Yes, it is wordy and heavy to hold while reading. He uses lots of 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 Sartaj Singh is a divorced, middle-aged Bombay policeman. Ganesh Gaitonde is the ruthless criminal boss of his underworld company. In an unusual story form, they clash at the beginning of the book. From that point on, Sartaj Singh's life continues but Ganesh Gaitonde's backstory unfolds in first person. The result is not unlike watching a tapestry being made.
Chandra covers a wide swath of history and territory, issues and ideas. Certainly readers whose usual diet is fast-paced cinematic thrillers will feel that Sacred Games is too densely packed with unnecessary passages. Personally I like a long story with a balance of action and thought. The sex and violence is heavy but not overdone. I got a sense of what life is for several levels of Bombay inhabitants: the booming economy next to the poverty; the remnants of class prejudice and religious intolerance; the influences of both Hollywood and Bollywood.
Vikram Chandra was born in India but now teaches literature and writing at UC Berkeley. In Sacred Games, he has fused Indian and Western storytelling while depicting an ancient and troubled country's emergence into the 21st century and has done it well.