This debut novel is a dazzling feat of imagination, technique, and wordplay. You begin Red Earth and Pouring Rain by reading an epic tale of Indian history and mythology and soon find yourself engrossed in a serial-killer mystery in Victorian London. Woven between the two is an On the Road-style odyssey of three American college students. The stories do come together, but the mastery lies in how distinct they remain until you least expect it. Structurally, the transitions happen so subtly that it takes time to recognize where you are, but it also makes you constantly aware of the tapestry Vikram Chandra is spinning. Ambitious? Yes. And impressive, too.