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Transmission Hardcover – May 24, 2004

3.9 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With this taut and entertaining novel, London native Kunzru paints a satirized but unsettlingly familiar tableau, in which his alienated characters communicate via e-mail jokes and emote through pop culture, all the while dreaming of frothy lattes and designer labels. Arjun Mehta is an Indian computer programmer and Bollywood buff who comes to the U.S. with big dreams, but finds neither the dashing romance nor the heroic ending of his favorite movies—just a series of crushing disappointments. When he is told he will lose his job at the global security software company and thus may have to return to India, Arjun develops and secretly releases a nasty computer virus, hoping that he can impress his boss into hiring him back when he "finds" the cure. Arjun's desperate measures are, of course, far reaching, eventually affecting the lives of Guy Swift, an English new money entrepreneur; his girlfriend, Gabriella; and the young Indian movie star Leela Zahir. Kunzru weaves their narratives adroitly, finding humor and pathos in his misguided characters, all the while nipping savagely at consumer culture and the executives who believe in "the emotional magma that wells from the core of planet brand." While Guy Swift creates a marketing campaign for border police that imagines Europe as an "upscale, exclusive continent," Arjun Mehta is fighting to keep his scrap of the American dream. Kunzru's first novel, The Impressionist, was received enthusiastically (it was shortlisted for numerous awards, and won quite a few others, including the Somerset Maugham Award), and this follow-up will not disappoint fans of his stirring social commentary.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Arjun Mehta, computer programmer and extreme Bollywood fan, dreams of a different life than his native India offers him. It seems like magic when a placement service in the U.S. offers to fly him to the states and help him find a job. After several weeks in limbo, he takes a position with a software developer specializing in virus protection. He befriends Chris, a heavily tattooed, bisexual rock-and-roll chick who takes pity on him. She exposes clueless Arjun to pieces of U.S. culture that challenge him in ways that are both humorous and thought-provoking. After a sexual interlude that ends his friendship with her, Arjun finds himself on a list of employees to be laid off. In desperation, he creates a computer virus around the image of a popular Bollywood star and unleashes it on the Internet. He plans to present a solution for it, making money for his company, saving his job, and turning himself into a hero. But, of course, things go awry as the virus takes on a life of its own. Kunzru's details of the technology are thrilling and accessible, bringing to mind William Gibson's classic cyberpunk novel Neuromancer (Ace, 1984). The point of view switches to other characters to show the effects of the virus on a more personal level. Ultimately, this is a mainstream-style novel with strong characters and situations that has just enough science-fiction elements to satisfy readers of both genres.–Matthew L. Moffett, Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult; First Edition edition (May 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525947604
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525947608
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,317,892 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Hari Kunzru is the author of the novels The Impressionist (2002), Transmission (2004), My Revolutions (2007) and Gods Without Men (2011), as well as a short story collection, Noise (2006). His work has been translated into twenty-one languages and won him prizes including the Somerset Maugham award, the Betty Trask prize of the Society of Authors, a Pushcart prize and a British Book Award. In 2003 Granta named him one of its twenty best young British novelists. Lire magazine named him one of its 50 "écrivains pour demain". He is Deputy President of English PEN, a patron of the Refugee Council and a member of the editorial board of Mute magazine. His short stories and journalism have appeared in diverse publications including The New York Times, Guardian, New Yorker, Financial Times, Times of India, Wired and New Statesman. He lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Arjun Mehta, a dreamer and innocent, is still living at home with his parents in a middle-class Indian housing complex when he is hired to work as a computer expert in Silicon Valley. Thinking his dreams have come true, he flies to California, only to discover that his well-paying job doesn't exist--that he will be working for almost nothing and paying half his salary for housing. Employed only part-time and living in poverty, he finally gets his "big break," a job at Virugenix, an internet security company in Redmond, Washington, where he works as a "ghost-buster" on the anti-virus team. When cutbacks in the tech industry cost him that job, he desperately devises a plan: to unleash the Leela Virus, named for his favorite Bollywood actress, so he can become a hero by "curing" it.
Kunzru satirizes American culture and dependence on technology as the naïve Arjun makes his way in America. Arjun learns that poverty "does not exclude cars, refrigerators, cable TV, and obesity," and that Virugenix features "neat landscaping and plenty of designated parking." A wry, satiric tone permeates the description of Arjun's life and his conflict of values, and American superficiality is skewered. Kunzru furthers this satire with two subplots, alternating scenes of the "real" Leela Zahir's life as a Bollywood film star with scenes of Arjun, pointing up the excesses of the rich and famous and the contrast with "real life." A third plot line features a European "marketing visionary," Guy Swift, who must keep international venture capitalists at bay while he enjoys the pretentious, international highlife.
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Format: Paperback
Hari Kunzru's Transmission is a funny yet thoughtful life and hard times of a young Indian software programmer who journeys from New Delhi to the U.S. to make a name for himself in the software industry.

Arjun Mehta is a naïve young programmer who has just graduated from a mid-level technical college in the suburbs of New Delhi. A naïve and sheltered young man, Arjun's primary social activity is to watch and become enthralled with the heroes and heroines of India's (Bollywood) film industry. Leela Zahir, a rising starlet, is the object of his sweetly innocent passion. When not dreaming about Leela, Arjun dreams of a job in Silicon Valley. His dreams are realized when he is offered what appears to be an idyllic job opportunity. Upon arriving in America Arjun soon discovers that this unique job opportunity is a work-for-hire scheme reminiscent of the days of company stores in coal mining communities.

Things begin to look up for Arjun when he is taken on by an anti-virus company. There he meets the tattooed, attractive Chris. Chris is a comely girl and for reasons known only to her decides to introduce Arjun to the more physical aspects of love. Of course, much to Chris' dismay the sheltered Arjun thinks that their one night stand amounts to a declaration of love. Arjun's dismay is magnified when his company's economic woes cause him to be laid off. In desperation, Arjun unleashes a computer virus in the hopes that when he finds a `fix' for the virus he will be rehired and his dream will be saved. Of course, not only does he not get his job back but the virus, featuring an animation of his matinee idol Leela in the middle of a Bollywood dance routine causes worldwide havoc.
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Format: Paperback
This sharply tragi-comic novel illustrates the dehumanizing effects of the globalized economy. While attending a programming job cattle-call, Arjun Mehta was recruited by a vocational pimp, and shipped to the U.S. as an indentured techno-servant. After he is exploited personnally, intellectually, and sexually, his emptiness reaches critical mass. Basically, he does create the Leela virus to try to salvage his job, but his deeper goal is to create a life-form. He is so bereft by his losses (which he can't reveal to his family) that he creates the virus to have something to nurture, like a baby. This baby replicates so manically that Arjun is a great-great grandfather within seconds, though. In addition to Arjun, we get to follow Guy Swift (who should be played by Jude Law in the movie) an English capitalist smart-ass; Gabrielle, his globe-hopping unfulfilled girlfriend; and Leela Zahir, the Indian film star who dances through Arjun's heart and the global consciousness. This book is written in language that is subtle and poetic. It is a gem with so many facets that it took me 3 weeks to get though this slender book. There are uproariously funny scenes; thought-provoking tapestries; and a good education. When the virus creator becomes a folk hero, the reader hopes that he finally feels the sincere love he has inspired.
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Format: Hardcover
Hari Kunzru's Transmission is a terrifically funny satire about a computer virus, its creator and the lives it touches. Kunzru pokes fun at contemporary British and American culture, taking many stereotypes and running with them. Arjun, a young Indian man, comes to California with dreams of making it big in the computer industry, but reality doesn't make it near his dreams. He ultimately lands a job and things work out for him for a while, but eventually his situation leads him to make a desperate act that changes everything. Arjun's story is funny and entertaining, but also a bit sad. Kunzru thankfully never takes anything too seriously and has apparently quite a bit of fun poking fun at contemporary society. The novel sails along, flashing occasional comic brilliance every couple of pages. Transmission is an entertaing novel, fun to ready, funny to contemplate. Enjoy.
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