This book is less a story than an epic journey - with emphasis on 'epic'. At over 900 pages it requires some stamina and will power to finish. Luckily, much of the story is a joy to read: there are parts of this book that are brilliant, for example Lin's experiences in an Indian prison and as a soldier in Afghanistan are truly memorable. The descriptions of Bombay bring vividly to mind a colourful, lively, characterful place which borders on lawlessness but is held together by an 'Indian' warmth and love. Roberts' great respect for India shines through at every stage, even when describing its more ugly aspects.
However, the thing that really lets this book down is its huge sense of its own importance. If this novel were a person, I get the feeling it would be a David Brent style character, with an inflated sense of its own importance in the world, demanding the full attention of everyone like a party bore. It is full of purple prose, some so bad I winced to read it - for example, 'some things are so sad that only your soul can do the crying for you'. It is also full of philosophies on life, drawn out and irrelevant to the story line. The narrator is constantly describing himself as a 'tough man' which grates after a while: we get it, you're very macho and brave and intelligent but also soft and kind and noble. the narrator seems to have a very high opinion of himself. he even tries to put a noble spin on his past crimes by justifying his choice of armed robbery over other crimes such as house burglary.
this book could have been brilliant with a strict editor: if it was halved in length, lost the purple prose and the main character was occasionally weak or stupid (as all human beings are from time to time). it is still brilliant, sometimes. but that is a far cry from what the author was clearly aiming for.