ISBN is

9780241142684 / 0241142687

Transmission

by

Publisher:Hamish Hamilton Ltd

Edition:Softcover

Language:English

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About the book:

Transmission is Hari Kunzru's second novel and, in a similar vein to Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, the title is instructive; it's figuratively and literally, the book's pulsing leitmotif. To transmit is, by definition, to "send across", and the migration of information and people, the destruction and the erection of borders in our hi-tech, supposedly global village, (a world where Indian graduates gain Australian accents working in local call centres) is what this novel is all about. Although to be clear, that's an "all about" in much the way that Jonathan Coe's What A Carve Up! was "all about" the Thatcherite 1980s; narrative invention, humour and satire form essential components of Kunzru's prodigious literary arsenal. (No prizes for guessing who Gavin Burger, an incomprehensively verbose US presidential spokesman who puts in a fleeting comic turn, could be modelled on.)

Leaving aside the broader forces of globalisation, Kunzru's chief dramatic agent is a computer virus that meshes together the lives of his main characters: Arjun Mehta, a sexually-na´ve Indian programmer working in America who unleashes the contagion; Leela Zahir, a Bollywood actress whose image the bug zooms across the globe and Guy Swift, head of Tomorrow, a Shoreditch-based consultancy whose ongoing quest to harness the "emotional magma that wells from the core of planet brand", becomes somewhat nobbled in the immediate technological fallout. Of his cast, not unsurprisingly Guy comes closest to caricature (though his scheme to rebrand European border police as Ministry of Sound-style nightclub bouncers--"Europe: No Jeans, No Trainers"--sounds alarming believable). But then Guy's is the incarnate of the worst, Panglossian traits of the West in this callow information age. His certainty and self-absorbed fecklessness (which thankfully he does eventually suffer, horribly for) contrasts jarringly with poor, Mehta, whose American dreams tip, all too swiftly into nightmare. --Travis Elborough

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