An interesting successor to Kunzru’s now-famous first novel.


Confusion and carnage on the information superhighway claim reputations, lives, and corporations.

The Anglo-Indian author’s harshly satiric second outing (after The Impressionist, 2002) opens with a charmingly funny account of young computer programmer Arjun Mehta’s hopeful departure from his smothering Indian parents and arrival in California, where the promised job that lured him there does not materialize. Arjun frets and daydreams, his culture shock soothed by romantic imaginings about “India’s sweetheart,” film star Leela Zahir—until he’s rescued by employment with Virugenix, a virus-fighting software company based in Washington State. After a brief period of security, Arjun is terminated, and, unwilling to return home in disgrace, becomes inconsolable. Then a malignant virus bearing the image of Leela Zahir attacks the world’s computers—and we know who’s created it. Meanwhile (in a comparatively bland subplot), British paper millionaire advertising mogul Guy Swift—whose New Age-y company declares itself “not so much an agency as an experiment in life-work balance”—sees his dream of “promoting Europe” scuttled, and loses his gorgeous coke-addicted girlfriend Gabrielle, who provides p.r. for a film Leela is shooting in Scotland, and beds Leela’s serial co-star, film hunk Rajiv Rana. Transmission (whose witty title is explained in the closing pages) wanders around its subject almost as much as Arjun does up and down the West Coast, fleeing toward Canada, then Mexico, before disappearing into the mists of computer legend, becoming a “hero” to hackers everywhere. Kunzru lays on the technical detail thickly, and computer geeks will perhaps best appreciate the sinuous meanderings and misdirections here. But its antic vision of an all-too-easily imperiled global village has enough charm and bite to engage us all.

An interesting successor to Kunzru’s now-famous first novel.

Pub Date: June 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-525-94760-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2004

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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