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April 9, 2013

Book Review - 119 : Behind The Silicon Mask

Author : Eshwar Sundaresan
Publisher : Westland

A techie community of around two hundred Indians stationed in Milwaukee suddenly finds itself under a siege. On a fateful Friday, a cyclonic snowstorm Super Susan is breaking winter records outside their windows. And beyond, somewhere in the inky darkness, a serial killer who targets immigrants is on the loose. An indiscreet TV journalist inadvertently has already informed him that almost the entire community resides within a three- block radius in downtown Milwaukee.

Two young techies belonging to the community - Partho Sen and Varun Belthangady are particularly under threat. Unaware of this fact, they carry on as usual. Varun must deliver a crucial software application for his Fortune-500 client before the weekend ends. Meanwhile, Partho must confront his inner demons to save the most important relationships in his life.

They must deal with these urgent needs, even as they deal with their rapacious corporate employer, an overambitious boss, unpredictable events unfolding in the living rooms and bedrooms of their colleagues and the effects of the most potent cocktail in the world. There is one man who can save them yet from the serial killer - Detective Farley of the Milwaukee Police Department. But will the serial killer prove too clever even for him?

The author touches upon certain points in the IT industry deftly - How a corporate deadline is so important that it may overlook a hidden danger to its employees? The author also touches upon how the power of public relations is able to make a company or an individual; what one sees is not always what the reality is. How employees at times push themselves too much in their jobs keeping their personal lives at stake? How IT employees deal with long distance relationships in the onsite-offshore model and how their libidos play funny games with them?

Good thing is that these points are subtly introduced and resolved, and this not-in-your-face treatment works wonderfully for the book. There are moments of loud thinking and deep introspection (a-lizard-in-the-room sequence) which add layers to both the book and the characters. It has took author almost 10 years to write the book and you can feel the umpteen number of twists and turns thrown in to keep the readers engrossed and hooked. The narrative works on a terrific pace and with around 10-15 main characters, it becomes an interesting account of keeping a tab on all of them.

What does not work for the book is over-mention of the IT language with details of production testing and bug-fixing thrown in like routine stuff. People who are not familiar with this kind of jargon will find it tough to sift through the pages as it will become difficult to comprehend the urgency and be aware of a critical situation. Also, it would not have hurt to kept the number of characters to a minimum, including couple of sub-plots of romantic relationships.

I am going with 3/5 for Eshwar's 'Behind the Silicon Mask'. It is a well researched fast pace thriller which will hook you from the beginning till its abstract ending. Read it, you will be pleasantly surprised with its tone and refreshing take on IT Industry.

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