Saturday, 20 April 2013

Book Review : Behind the Silicon Mask by Eshwar Sundaresan

An interesting conversation with author Eshwar Sundaresan on Twitter (Courtesy : Westland Books) got me winning a copy of his latest novel - Behind the Silicon Mask. The book promptly arrived at my address a couple of days later and here I am sharing my two cents about it.
My copy (Courtesy: Westland Books)

Book Blurb:

A serial killer targeting immigrants.

A record-shattering snowstorm that aids his cold mission.

A community of 200 Indian IT professionals under a 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.
Niether Partho Sen nor Varun Belthangady is aware that his life is in danger. There is one man who can save them yet - Detective Farley of the Milwaukee Police Department. But will the serial killer prove to clever for him?

My two cents: 

Set in snowstorm-struck bitterly cold Milwaukee, USA, Behind the Silicon Mask revolves around the lives of a group of software professionals working on an onsite project for their Bangalore based company. On a fateful Friday morning, as everyone is gearing up for a particularly cold and restrictive weekend ahead, the news of a serial killer and his probable future targets is splashed on the local news channel by an overly enthusiastic TV reporter. Within minutes, hell breaks loose. As the city prepares to shield itself from the coming onslaught of snowstorm Super Susan, the local police have little time on their hands to track down the serial killer and prevent further harm. Adding to the sense of emergency is an important software application that must be delivered before the weekend. What follows is a laborious effort by all the characters to put the drifting pieces of their lives - personal and professional - together.

But in this pacy thriller of a plot, there is more to what meets the eye. In the chaotic aftermath of the discovery of a serial killer in their midst, our protagonists have their inner demons to fight, their pasts and present to reconcile to, old chapters to close and new beginnings to begin, but only and only if they survive the serial killer who has a full proof plan in place to hunt down his next targets - targets who took all his happiness away. This plot and the many sub plots converge in an action packed showdown, in a room where lives are lost and fates are sealed.

In an otherwise interesting narrative, what is particularly distracting is the number of characters and their job profiles. There are so many of them, that other than the significantly visible few, I kept forgetting who is who and who does what. Plus the really heavy tech jargon used in between also brings down the interest quotient. You know it is a techie writing the book alright. However on the plus side,  for those uninitiated, the book can give a fair amount of insight into how a software company works and what goes on behind the cubicles of those super smart techies sitting in new-age swanky glass buildings.

During our Twitter conversation, Eshwar mentioned that it took him nearly 10 years and several drafts to pin down the plot of the novel and chisel it down to its present edgy shape. For an ex-corporate nobody (as he defines himself), it indeed is a laudable effort to leave behind a secure job (despite the pitfalls, the fragile corporate egos, and the many rifts) and set out to explore the inner calling, which, for Eshwar, was writing. With around 300 pages, neatly packed in 14 chapters, Behind the Silicon Mask is a thrilling read, and can be read at one go.

More about the book:

Publisher: Westland Books
Genre: Fiction/Thriller
ISBN: 978-93-82618-39-3

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