KING OF SWEET SWEET, by Vauhini Vara
The premise of Vauhini Vara’s debut novel, “The Immortal King Rao,” could very simply be: A young woman named Athena, was raised secretly on an island in the Puget Sound by a father. The old man injected her with the genetic code. gives her access to the entire internet and all his memories, finds herself in a prison named after her mother, awaiting an algorithmic verdict for a crime she insists she didn’t commit right. In the meantime, she writes a lengthy self-defense statement addressed to the Shareholders of the large corporation that replaced the US government, practically all governments, as well as the capital letters “Shareholders”. “s” has replaced the word “citizen”.
Let me try again. The premise of “The Immortal King Rao” could very simply be: A boy named King Rao was born into a large Dalit Indian family, gaining a foothold in the middle class through smart investments. obediently on a coconut farm. King was sent to study engineering in the United States, where he became the chief programmer and public face of a computer company that had initially turned the lifestyle brand into a global superpower, overshadowing Gates, Jobs et al. After a spectacular fall by grace, King retreats to a small island where his daughter, Athena, plays Miranda to Prospero: guardian, caretaker, secret-sharer. He hopes for a day when he can correct the wrongs he has committed, as well as the things he feels have been committed against him.
Again with feeling. The premise of “Immortal King Rao” could very simply be: A phenomenon known as Hothouse Earth, the end result of climate collapse, is slowly extinguishing human civilization and perhaps all of it. life on the planet. But the idea was too big and intimidating for anyone to deal with, so they didn’t. The Shareholder Government continues to use the Social Capital rating to keep its Shareholders working, consuming and posting. Meanwhile, in Blanklands – officially recognized autonomous regions outside the control of Shareholders – those calling themselves Exes have achieved something of a functional anarchist communism or Proudhon’s workers’ collective. The Exes believe that as the inherent contradictions in the Shareholder system become harder to ignore, more people will adopt their model. Unfortunately, by the time people turn towards their city on a hill, chances are that the hill will be underwater.
At 370 pages, “Rao” is just a short story about a multigenerational family and sweeping social epic. (Not to mention science fiction content, though the novel is science fiction only insofar as it involves some science fiction.) Measure the spine against the spine, such as “The Correction” by Jonathan Franzen, “The Sleepwalker’s Dancing Guide” by Mira Jacob or “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee – say nothing about older, more human monsters like “A Fit Boy” or “Independent People” – “Rao” may at first appear like a welded weight between heavy objects. Don’t be fooled.