I'm a casual reader of science-fiction and tend to be most attracted to "near-future" scenarios set on Earth (for example, Ian MacDonald's intriguing River of Gods, Richard Morgan's high-octane Altered Carbon,or Paolo Bacigalupi's disappointing Windup Girl), so this relatively slim book set in near-future India jumped off the shelf at me. To be sure, it's not in the same league as MacDonald's epic River of Godsm, but it has no ambitions to be. Rather, it's a very fun, fast-paced thriller about corporate espionage, a serial killer whose murders are devotions to the goddess Kali, and a man-eating tiger lurking at the edges of the titular megacity (which looks to be modeled on Calcutta).
The main storyline concerns a scientist named Taneer who stole a new invention from his corporate employer and had gone into hiding as he seeks to sell it for something on the order of $100,000,000. Acting as his agent and middleman is the honorable proprietor of a tourist kitch shop, who also dabbles in illegal trade. Unfortunately, for both men, the corporate giant has brought in a highly respected freelance "problem-solver" to track Taneer down and recover the information, alive if possible, dead if not. A further fly in the ointment is the determination of Taneer's estranged father to kill him for taking up with an unsuitable lower-caste woman. Meanwhile, the seemingly unconnected beheadings around the city have attracted the attentions of the police, and an investigation is launched to track down the cruel killer. The book bounces back between the two plots (and the tiger), only to bring them all together in a slightly predictable final confrontation.
The characters are developed in just enough depth for the reader to sympathize with their motivations, but no further. Similarly, the mix of old and new, gods and technology, East and West, is all decently if somewhat predictably, done -- there's not a lot of depth to any of it. However, the story allows Foster to riff on all kinds of technology that's evolved to meet the needs of a 70-million-person megacity. For example, automated transports that gently remove wandering cattle form the streets, high-tech clothing of all kinds, various communication devices, specialized and stylized robots, biometric security systems, self-sealing fast-food bags, and on and on. The thing I liked is that this technology all seemed plausible, while at the same time, there are still teeming masses of destitute people (some so much so that some have become a cannibal gang!) living in the gutter right next to a gleaming 5-star hotel, temples, sadhus, and plenty of street food. It's not a work of genius, but it is an entertaining glimpse of one imagining of a near-future India that would make a great TV miniseries.