Let the Game Begin, a thriller penned by Sandeep Sharma has been classified as a historical thriller by the author. Thriller as a genre often comprises the elements of suspense, mystery, uncertainty, anticipation to keep the reader hooked till the very last page. Historical fiction usually depicts historical figures in fictional scenarios, fictional figures in documented historical events or fictional figures and events in a historical time period. Historical thrillers coalesce the elements of both. The author begins the book by chronicling some fictional events that occurred some 4000 years ago, however; no geographical specifics or historical timeline is delineated for the reader to locate the incidences. As far as the thriller aspect is concerned, the author fails to arouse the feelings of excitement, stimulation, exhilaration or thrill.
The book begins with the mystery of Lambasa Parvata and the ‘cave of Mrityunjay’ and moves on to recount the story of a rivalry between two kingdoms, Chaturanga and Sarprakt and the killing of the only heir of Chaturanga by the kingdom of Sarprakt. Maddened by the grief of his only son, the king of Chaturanga directs a man whose life is shrouded in secrecy to come down from the mountain and ‘invent the most dangerous weapon for him, a weapon which can recreate the battlefield for him where he lost his son – weapon which in future would be named as the ‘Game of Chess’’. From there, the narrative fast-forwards to the present times where the random strange killings are taking place and a chess piece is discovered at every crime scene. Every killing that takes place is associated with the conspiracy hatched some 4000 years ago and the ancient curse. As the killings escalate, the intelligence agencies like RAW and CLAW (the secret agency that acts as the security of the Prime Minister) becomes involved in the case.
While the main plot revolves around the ancient conspiracy and the killings in the present times, the author introduces various sub-plots and themes. One of such themes that reoccur throughout the book is ‘Can history repeat itself?’ The author brings this subject time and again in the book, not metaphorically but literally as every character that was involved in the conspiracy centuries back gets reincarnated at the same point of time again (including the king of Chaturanga and Sarprakt) so that they can be killed all over again and the thirst for revenge can be quenched. The ideas of historical reoccurrence and reincarnation assume majestic proportions in the book and the story loses its focus as the author delves into philosophical and scientific musings so as to justify the very use of these themes in the plot. Most importantly, the reader remains completely at a loss as to the significance of the game of chess in the plot line – the author seems to reimagine its history, introduces child prodigies; but their introduction in the storyline seems unnecessary and gives an impression to the reader that their eradication would change nothing.
The author seems to throw random ideas, theories in the plot and leaves them in between without interweaving them with the rest of the plot.
Apart from the editing and grammatical errors, the characters in the book are never developed and fail to grab the attention of the reader. The officers of the intelligence agencies are shown as naïve and immature while the villain of the plot turns out to be rather a daft and not the criminal mastermind as portrayed throughout the narrative.
The story begins with a potential of being an excellent thriller but falls apart in between as the author introduces too many themes and ideas without knitting them with the main plot. The book simply fails to thrill.