“Surprise Me, Gentlemen” is about a dictator of a nameless state who gets twelve writers in captivity and demands that each of them weave a story in a stipulated amount of time. The condition being: Each story must have a surprise element at the end of it. The stories are then read out by the writers (whose names aren’t mentioned) and then the group decides which is the best and the worst story. The reward for the best story is nothing. The punishment for the worst story: Death.
The book had some great potential. A lot could be done with the stories. Whereas some of them were really nice – the one by the Spec-Fic writer on mythology and life (my favourite in the book) to the one narrated by the Urban Writer, on work and depression, there were others that I thought were written in a rush and could have had more time spent on. The element of surprise works well in some stories and in some it just seems predictable. I wish the author would have spent more time on the Dictator’s character which could have been built on and made more sense of.
The title as well does not go with the book, considering that some writers are women. However, that is a disconnect I did not delve into and let it go, however had to mention it in this review. According to me, as a writer Manu has what it takes, however as I said earlier, I think he just rushed through the second half.
The ending at the same time was a dampener for me and did not take me by surprise, which I am sure it intended to. There are a lot of sub-plots in the book, which could have been charted out in a better manner, leaving the reader happy and satisfied. I would recommend this read only if you want to read some stories from it and not reach the end.