Transmission by Hari Kunzru

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Helllllllllllllllllllo readers of this bookish place, hope you’re well and ready for the dreaded word that is CHRISTMAS! Yes it’s next week – next week, how exciting and festive and wonderful. Although I’m still at work like many of you so it’s a lukewarm happiness. This is the first year I haven’t been home by now. Last year was my first Christmas in the working world but I saved a lot of holiday days so I could go home quite early for Christmas – this year not so lucky with moving jobs, having about three days of holiday and needing to use them for already made plans. Gah I’m wingeing – enough of that, the REVIEW.

It’s the twenty-first century, and everything and everyone is connected.

Meet Arjun Mehta, an Indian cybergeek catapulted into California’s spiralling hi-tech sector; Leela Zahir, beguiling Bollywood actress filming in the midge-infested Scottish wilds; and Guy Swift, hyped-up marketing exec lost in a blue-sky tomorrow of his own devising. Three dislocated individuals seeking nodes of connectivity – a place to fit in. Yet this is the twenty-first century, and their lives are about to become unexpectedly entangled as a virus spreads, and all their futures are rewired. But will it take them further from their dreams, or closer to their hearts?

As the blurb suggests we follows the rather satirical but utterly wonderful tale of an IT ‘geek’ trying to make it in America. Arjun has always been fascinated with the idea of America and the American dream but when he gets there it’s not quite how he assumed it would be. Struggling to keep his job Arjun sends out a terrifying virus called Leela01 in the hope of fixing the problem which displays a looping video of his favourite Bollywood star on any computer that accesses the link. Amongst this we have the stories of both Leela and Guy Swiftt whose lives slowly come into contact with Arjun as his virus threatens to take over the world. It’s a wonderful tale of  the power of the internet, the story of the American dream with a little bit of Bollywood glamour.

Is it any good you ask? Yes. Yes it is. Firstly the characters are wonderfully built up and they contrast beautifully – Arjun is struggling to prove his worth despite being a hardworking, honestly trained and determined human being, contrasted with Guy Swift who is desperate to prove he’s this big shot in events and yet he’s not. It’s a front, a total front. This contrasted the entire way through and watching their lives change and evolve as the plot continues was such a clever way to connect characters using their flaws and their strengths. I thought the looking into Arjun and his new life in America in contrast to his life in India was offset well and helped to strengthen the contrasts we see.

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I thought the book was so clever in looking at the power of the internet and it’s ability to negatively affect so many lives – the book looks strongly at destroying our faith in technology and how much we rely on machines and their ability to give us knowledge and power. Watching the virus grow and seeing both the effect it has on Arjun, Leela and Guy is a clever play on what the internet means to each and every one of us – it’s a powerful story and one that is really important in our current digital age. The writing is strong and weaves a tale – flitting between the different storylines and building up secondary supporting characters throughout, this works well. Due to  moving between each of the characters it made me surge through the book desperate to know more and learn more and that definitely made me more invested in the plot. In terms of the pace it is a little slow at the beginning and then it definitely speeds up once Arjun is in America so if it feels a little slow and steady it does improve helping to draw the reader in.

The real dissapointment is at the end – I don’t want to give away any spoilers but there were two ways of doing it really; tying it up and making the book quite a bit longer or kind of stopping and inserting a coda to attempt to wrap things up which for me, and for a lot of other readers judging from the reviews, doesn’t quite work.

Overall would I recommend? Yes definitely if you’re looking for something different that really plays on the character profiles and looks into the Internet age we’re currently trying to recover from. I thought this was clever, and although ending was a little bit of a letdown overall still a brilliant read!




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