Reading guide for Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Gods Without Men

A Novel

by Hari Kunzru

Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru X
Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2012, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2013, 384 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Judy Krueger
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!

  1. Gods Without Men brings us into the consciousness of nine fictional characters, among them a hedge fund executive; a UFO cult leader; a dissolute British rock star; a homesick Iraqi teenage girl; one historical character, the eighteenth-century Spanish missionary Fray Francisco Hermenegildo Tomás Garcés; and one deity, Coyote, the trickster in many Native American traditional stories.  Why does Hari Kunzru embrace such a wide and diverse cast of characters?

  2. Do these characters from different historical eras and different echelons of society share any of the same aspirations? What draws them to the Pinnacle Rocks?

  3. Which character or characters do you most identify with? Why?

  4. Why do you think Kunzru set this novel in the desert? Could he have told the same story in a different landscape?

  5. After reading Gods Without Men do you agree with Honoré de Balzac's description of the desert: "In the desert, you see, there is everything and nothing... It is God without men," one of the epigraphs of this novel? Has your conception of the desert changed? Do you think "wasteland" is an appropriate synonym for "desert"?

  6. Dawn joins the Ashtar Galactic Command in 1970 when she is a teenager because she wants "to be part of something bigger than herself" (page 155). Does she achieve that goal? Thirty-eight years later, teenage Laila draws comfort from the Ashtar record she buys at a thrift shop. Why?

  7. Several characters in the novel possess arcane knowledge of mathematics, alchemy, aerodynamics, electrical engineering, or entertainment marketing that enables them to manipulate the material world in their favor, yet they don't seem satisfied with their achievements. What are the sources and consequences of their dissatisfaction?

  8. The character Coyote appears intermittently throughout the novel as an animal, a man, and a deity. What do his appearances herald?  Are other characters comparably skilled at transforming themselves?

  9. Kunzru references three international conflicts in this novel - World War I, World War II, and the second Iraq War. What do the characters Deighton, Schmidt, and Laila, who had firsthand experiences of those wars, have in common?

  10. Lisa views Raj's disappearance as her punishment for her wild night in town. Dawn thinks she was responsible because by taking Lisa to Judy's place "she'd got her family involved. They were mixed up with Coyote, mixed up in the paths and flows" (page 343). Do you believe that either character is responsible for Raj's disappearance?

  11. Does the little glowing boy Laila finds in the desert at night (page 297) bear any relation to the "glow boy" (page 64) Joanie's daughter, Judy, was seen playing with before she disappeared in 1958?

  12. Why do you think Lisa is able to gratefully accept her son's seemingly miraculous return and his recovery from autism, whereas Jaz cannot bear not knowing what happened to his son and is frightened by Raj's changed behavior, believing the boy who was returned to them is not Raj; "It's as if - as if something is wearing his skin" (page 357)?

  13. Toward the end of the novel, Lisa believes she has learned a lesson: "true knowledge is the knowledge of limits, the understanding that at the heart of the world... is a mystery into which we are not meant to penetrate.... Now she could call it God... confident that though the world was unknowable, it had a meaning, and that meaning would keep her safe and set her free" (page 345). Does Jaz experience his own epiphany at the end of the novel when he stands holding hands with Lisa and Raj looking out over the desert?

  14. Why does the novel begin and end with an explosion? At the end of the novel, do you gain a clearer understanding of what Coyote was up to in the first chapter?

  15. Do you think Kunzru's postmodernist storytelling technique of presenting the reader with pieces of a puzzle without providing explicit explanations of how the pieces fit together is appropriate for a novel that explores the search for pattern and meaning? Would the story be more or less realistic if he had limited himself to traditional forms of storytelling?


Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Vintage. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year
  • More about membership!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: Butterfly Yellow
    Butterfly Yellow
    by Thanhha Lai, Daniel Suarez
    Voted 2019 Best Young Adult Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    As readers, many of us hope ...
  • Book Jacket: Olive, Again
    Olive, Again
    by Elizabeth Strout
    Voted 2019 Best Fiction Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    It's been a big year for literary ...
  • Book Jacket: Solitary
    Solitary
    by Albert Woodfox
    Voted 2019 Best Debut Author Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    According to statistics from ...
  • Book Jacket: Becoming
    Becoming
    by Michelle Obama
    Voted 2019 Best Nonfiction Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    BookBrowse hosted a Book Club ...

Book Club
Book Jacket
Evening in Paradise
by Lucia Berlin

"Berlin's new book is a marvel, filled with deeply touching stories about lives on the fringes."—NPR

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Seine
    by Elaine Sciolino

    "A soulful, transformative voyage along the body of water that defines the City of Light."
    —Lauren Collins
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Butterfly Yellow

BUTTERFLY YELLOW

Winner of the BookBrowse Award for Best Young Adult Novel, and the overall highest rated book of the year!

Enter

Wordplay

The Big Holiday Wordplay

Enter Now

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.