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Customer Review

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars That '70s Book, December 21, 2003
This review is from: Kalki (Mass Market Paperback)
KALKI is very much a product of its time. And, as that time was the late '70s, one can see that the book is obsessed with many of the same things that other products of that era were fascinated by. The main protagonist is a female, she's an avowed feminist, she's overtly bisexual, she's an airplane test pilot, she constantly thinks about Amelia Earhart, and her autobiography was a rejection of motherly values, ghost-written by a man selected by her publishing company.
The rest of the story is similarly '70s in flavor. An Eastern/Hindu religious sect is claiming that their god Kalki has been reincarnated in the form of an ex-army soldier from the American Midwest. Their scripture claims that when Kalki returns to ride the white horse, the world will end soon afterwards; only the chosen few will survive. Naturally, since this is the '70s, everyone on the planet becomes obsessed with the Kalki story. The newsmagazine show, "60 Minutes" produces an unusually long segment investigating the Kalki phenomenon. Even Walter Cronkite gets into the act, making an amused comment on the impending end of the world.
In between the references to Watergate and the mentions of Ronald Reagan, there's a very effective religious satire going on here. Gore Vidal paints his satirical strokes a little broad at times, but when he focuses, the story soars. Fun is poked at, not only the religious cults that were springing up at the time, but many aspects of pop culture. Some of the jokes still apply today, of course. In fact, were this book to be written now, many of the shots at television news coverage wouldn't need to be changed at all.
Although the book seems most concerned with its satire, it also works extremely well as straight adventure/thriller. A genuinely enjoyable story, I simply could not figure out what direction it was going to go in next. The gothic tone of the ending slips in nicely after the whimsy of the beginning and middle. Vidal manages to get the balance of comedy and drama just right. Some moments are laugh out loud funny, while a page later one will be faced with sudden and utter horror.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 2, 2008 6:33:53 AM PDT
What makes this book timeless is Vidal's insouciant attitude toward humanity.

Most of us are anthropocentric. In this book he views with equanimity--maybe even enjoyment--the extermination of human life.
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