Narcopolis is a rambling story consumed within a narcotic haze that flits between characters and times, drifting decades at a time. It’s hard to explain what the story is about. Imagine trying to recall a dream: some parts will be clear, others foggy and unclear, while others will seem pointless or nonsensical, but you have an overriding feeling that at the time it was enjoyable. Thayil can write, that’s indisputable, and if you like poetic prose you’ll enjoy this but be warned, this book reads like a drug hit: you’re likely to be disappointed if you like clear narratives and structured plots. To misquote Wallace Stevens, this “is a book too mad to read before one merely reads to pass the time”, and like the drugs, the madness is addictive.