Review: ‘The Immortal King Rao,’ by Vauhini Vara


The premise of Vauhini Vara’s debut novel, “The Immortal King Rao,” is so simple as might be: A younger lady named Athena, raised in secret on an island within the Puget Sound by an getting older father who has injected her with genetic code that permits her to entry the complete web and likewise all his reminiscences, finds herself in a jail named after her mom, awaiting judgment by algorithm for a criminal offense she insists she didn’t commit. Whereas she waits, she writes a prolonged self-defense addressed to the Shareholders of the mega-corporation that has changed the U.S. authorities, certainly all governments, simply as “Shareholder” with a capital “s” has changed the phrase “citizen.”

Let me attempt that once more. The premise of “The Immortal King Rao” is so simple as might be: A boy named King Rao is born into a big Dalit Indian household that has gained a foothold within the center class via shrewd funding in a coconut farm. King is shipped to review engineering in america, the place he turns into the lead programmer and public face of an early pc firm turned way of life model turned international superpower, eclipsing Gates, Jobs et al. After falling spectacularly from grace, King retreats to a small island the place his daughter, Athena, performs Miranda to his Prospero: ward, caretaker, secret sharer. He hopes for a day when he may proper the wrongs he dedicated, in addition to these he feels have been dedicated in opposition to him.

As soon as extra, with feeling. The premise of “The Immortal King Rao” is so simple as might be: A phenomenon referred to as Hothouse Earth, the endgame of local weather collapse, is regularly extinguishing human civilization and doubtless all life on the planet. However this concept is just too massive and scary for anybody to take care of, in order that they don’t. The Shareholder Authorities continues to make use of Social Capital rankings to maintain its Shareholders working, consuming and posting. In the meantime, within the Blanklands — formally acknowledged autonomous zones outdoors of Shareholder management — individuals who name themselves Exes have achieved one thing like useful anarcho-communism à la Proudhon’s staff’ collectives. The Exes consider that because the contradictions inherent within the Shareholder system grow to be tougher to disregard, extra folks will embrace their mannequin. Sadly, by the point everybody turns towards their metropolis on a hill, there’s a very good probability that hill will likely be underwater.

Credit score…Andrew Altschul

At 370 pages, “Rao” is on the brief facet for a multigenerational household saga and sweeping social epic. (To not point out the sci-fi stuff, although the novel is science-fictional solely insofar because it includes some fictional science.) Measured backbone to backbone in opposition to, say, Jonathan Franzen’s “Corrections,” Mira Jacob’s “Sleepwalker’s Information to Dancing” or Min Jin Lee’s “Pachinko”to say nothing of older, baggier monsters like “A Appropriate Boy” or “Unbiased Individuals” “Rao” may seem at first like a welterweight amongst heavies. Don’t be fooled.

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