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Read advance reader review of The Immortal King Rao by Vauhini Vara

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The Immortal King Rao

A Novel

by Vauhini Vara

The Immortal King Rao by Vauhini Vara X
The Immortal King Rao by Vauhini Vara
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  • Published May 2022
    384 pages
    Genre: Literary Fiction

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  • Barbara O. (Red Bank, NJ)
    Brilliant Read
    I'm not usually drawn to dystopian settings but this book is so much more than that. It's a brilliant story about Indian family culture and the rise of a young Dalit child to world reknown in the computer age. The author cleverly reveals past and present in her storytelling as she draws the reader deeper into the success and fall of King Rao. Vauhini Vaka uses the ubiquitous computer and imagines a world turned upside down with political upheaval and challenges the reader to think about the world around them. I loved it.
  • Triciat50
    Outstanding Debut!
    The Immortal King Rao by Vauhini Vara manages to incorporate at least half dozen popular fiction topics, including post-colonialism India, fraught family relationships, immigration, income disparity, politically divided society and technology over-reach, in a powerful and engaging story. This is no small feat for an experienced writer, but is extraordinary to discover in a debut novel.
    The story covers the one-hundred-year plus life of King Rao (his name, not a title) as told from the perspective of his eighteen year old daughter. Through her father's technology, Athena is able to access her fathers' memories about his impoverished childhood as a lower-caste Dalit, his immigration to, and university education in, the United States, and his rise to become the co-founder of one of the most influential computer and social media companies in the world. Vara smoothly moves back and forth between two centuries, between King's past and Athena's present life, to weave the story of how quickly and how far the world has moved forward in a short amount of time—with a warning for us as she looks to the future.
    Vara's characters come alive on the page, from a dusty family compound outside a small Indian village to a utopian compound in the future. She is able to take an advanced technological concept and make it realistic, understandable and fascinating. I am NOT a "sci-fi" fan in the least, but I found myself unable to put this book down at times. I'm already looking forward to Vara's next endeavor.
  • John W. (Saint Louis, MO)
    Liked Station Eleven then You'll Love This Book!
    The Immortal King Rao is a very intriguing and well written story that is extremely appropriate for the time we are living where big tech dominates our lives in more ways than ever envisioned. It tells a story of a dystopian society of an Indian man who invents a computer and social order that treats every person in the world as a shareholder. Each person's actions raise or lowers your shares. Like any corporation there is a Board that oversees the new world order and an algorithm that decides the value or payment of your actions. Initially King Rao and his wife are busy creating new products but then King Rao disappears. He moves to a small island with his daughter Athena. Athena has been given all her father's memories. Athena loves her dad and her life until her father is unable to answers her questions. She leaves her father, joins a group known as the Exes and lives on Bainbridge Island where they don't live by the rules and algorithm of the Coconut.

    Reminded me of "Station Eleven" and as I previously stated the book seemed extremely appropriate of our current love / hate relationship with big tech. I enjoyed it very much and highly recommend it especially to fans of "Station Eleven".
  • Laurie S., Minneapolis, MN
    King Rao: A Techno Odyssey
    A searing satire of technology's effects on individuals and society. Consider it a 21st century odyssey on the magnitude of Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man" combined with Hollywood's techno thriller Inception.

    Vauhini Vara's "The Immortal King Rao" follows the story of King Rao and his daughter Athena. From 1950s India to the near future of Seattle, the story moves back and forth from castes, nations, to a new way of life controlled by technology's power brokers. The novel explores what happens if online information is curated and controlled, and what happens when technology is developed to connect users to this information. Where and how do people, countries, and ideas begin and end?
  • Beverly J. (Hoover, AL)
    Smart, Clear-eyed, Riveting!
    A clear-eyed and endlessly thought-provoking entertaining read of the age-old debate of the role of technology as a tool for betterment, and opportunity.

    The author displays her journalist skills as she effectively combines a matter-of-fact view with intimate details across a vast and diverse timeline from 1950s India of a rural Dalit community to the 1970s United States and the beginning of the rise the entrepreneurial technological behemoths to the futuristic corporate-run governments with algorithm driven solutions being the norm as climate change rages its revenge.

    This was a smart, original, and completely absorbing read for me from the mysterious introduction of the narrator, Althea, accused of murdering her father (the King Rao of the title), the fresh look at the Dalit community, and the encroaching role of technology versus individual choice/freedom.

    Raising fascinating questions, this book is a terrific pick for book groups that enjoy discussing timely issues.
  • Molly B. (Longmont, CO)
    What a Book!
    This book packs in so much – a complex storyline, an apocryphal message and many familiar existential questions. What an interesting and really original story! There are some very heavy and essential comments about what humanity is doing with our time on this earth. There is commentary on many ugly parts of their society, which happens to look just like our current world: capitalism, the consumer value system, the demoralization of human beings that stems from being responsible only for self, the folly of doing everything BUT what is needed to stop global warming, sexism, racism. There is also a fascinating vision of possible world governance and potential mind connections in the future. The future of mankind is discussed – that we will have reached the upper limits of human accomplishment in time to be swallowed up by oceans and burned up by the same fire that started our ancestors' path to advancement. The existential query of why we are here reverts back to a consideration of plants that just are, that live and die without building on the shoulders of their ancestors – that maybe we just are, that we live and die, and the questioning is beside the point. Wow. This could have been many books, but here, you get them all rolled into one.
  • Susan B. (Memphis, MO)
    not like other books, definitely worth a try
    Very interesting book, and I've thought about it quite a bit since finishing, though I'm still not sure where I land on it overall. I found it quite well-written and very wide ranging in content, though the latter sometimes led to some disorientation for me. Part dystopian science fiction, part immigrant "success" story, part capitalism/corporatism/consumerism critique, part dive into Indian culture, part child-parent dynamic story, etc., some of these I enjoyed more than others. There were many earthy details that were sometimes fascinating and sometimes off-putting, but given the good writing, if any of these kinds of stories are of interest to you, I suggest giving this one a try.
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