Written in terse, tense prose, the places and people described here will be familiar to anyone who has ever visited India, or seen documentaries or read books about it. Every detail rings immediately true. The author has created an authentic anti-hero through which to tell the story of modern India, his voice is consistently strong and sharp. There is no sentiment here, Balram is at once likeable and distasteful, and as such highly believable, an achievement in a story that could be seen as far-fetched by some.
The imagery of darkness and light, of big and small bellies, helps to create consistency of theme: that is, that something in the much heralded 'new India' is not quite right. Details of description enlighten the story throughout - descriptions of the massses of ragged Delhi street chilrdren, of hawkers working the traffic jams, of migrant workers packed on bus rooves to get away from the poverty in the villages. There is a strong sense of the cycles of hope and disappointment that govern lives here. The great mass of people in the Darkness struggle to get out, and when they get out, they still struggle to survive. They have been lied to - Delhi, for them, is not the Light, but a life lived under a flyover, cooking on the street, their children run over by cars of people like Balram's master who then refuse to take the blame. People like him, are able to exempt themselves from responsiblity, able to avoid taxes and contribution to the society in which they live, by perpetuating the myth that 'hard work' will pay and that the servant class is where they are by virtue of stupidity and dishonesty.
Balram, by committing murder and escaping the shackles of poverty in the way few can, demonstrates both that they are wrong, and that they are right. It is possible to work your way to the top, but only by treading heavily on others on the way up. It is this that gives the novel its authenticity. The author does not want us to like or dislike Balram, but simply to see him for what he is - the product of his society.