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Kalki Mass Market Paperback – February 12, 1979

4.2 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


A stunning piece of writing Sunday Times Diabolically clever Time --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

Who is Kalki, and why is he planning to destroy the world -- and everything in it? And if Kalki is a mystical legend, then why does his ultimate world include only a select few chosen to breed a new human race?

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Thus edition (February 12, 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345278739
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345278739
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 4.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,257,014 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Andrew McCaffrey VINE VOICE on December 21, 2003
Format: 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.
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Format: Paperback
I cannot tell you what is deeply disturbing about this novel in regards to the actual plot without giving much of it away--which would be a crime and a half for a novel of this punch. Suffice it to say that despite the fact that Vidal puts enough aspects of 70s culture into it to make it fresh and new for when it was written, it carries even more power--and becomes even more disturbing--when read in our new millenium; almost as much as it would have had I read it in 1999.
There is a woman named Teddy Ottinger: feminist, an aviatrix extraordinaire, divorced mother of two; longing to step into the shoes of her immortal hero Amelia Earhart, even at the expense of the emotional lives of her children, for whom she has little true maternal feelings and little more than a contempt for her ex-husband that had to have been there latently when she married him. Cold, but searching for love and warmth in the arms of both lesbian women and men--and something of meaning in her life via French philosophy--she is summoned to the world of Kalki, the tenth avatar of the god Vishnu, harbringer of the end of the world. But he may also be someone else; a someone else that could make this entire fantasy world she is seemingly caught up in a dangerous lie. Or, he could simply be Kalki, and the world must prepare for the End...
Vidal channels Mark Twain in our century like he always does and creates a novel of social criticism with a style and expertise of which few in history have ever equalled. But with this novel he weaves essential Hinduism and the CIA into it in a way that makes one question not just American society, but reality itself. In two hundred plus pages Vidal will have you sitting on the edge of the bed at two o'clock in the morning with this novel, not being able to put it down, yet being afraid to read the final chapters.
And make no mistake, the final chapters will blow your mind.
I highly recommend this one.
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Format: Audio Cassette
This is scary, devillish and brilliant stuff. I am writing this review about two hours after finishing Kalki. I' d love to delete the experience from my memory so I could do so again. The premise is that a bisexual writer and aviatrix named Teddy Ottinger is given the chance of the ultimate scoop. A former Vietnam vet named Jimmy Kelly has announced he is the AVATAR (incarnation) of Kalki. He is holed up in an ashram in Nepal. The end pof the world is nigh. Meanwhile, his retinue of deluded bourgeois American youth is handing out white lotuses on the nation's streets.Teddy must fly with him like her heroine Amelia Erhart and scoop the rival networks. The poers that be suspect a drug-ring. Those who know of Hinduism know Kalki as the tenth and final incarnation of the great Vishnu, sacred 33% of the "Trimurti", also including Brahma and Siva. Mr Kelly proves to be a worthy messiah. The book keeps you turning the pages. The end is utterly convincing. Real grist to to the mill in that eternal debate. Are we here because some Preserver-Destroyer-Creator being wills it, now and forever? Are we here because a few eons back, some monkeys (Jack and Jill?) threw a bone in the air and never looked back?
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Format: Paperback
I figured I would give this one a shot after reading Vidal's masterpiece Burr. Burr was absolutely brilliant and flowed like rich cream. This book, which deals with an apocalyptic scenario set against the background of 1970's pop culture, was much less impressive. Maybe I should stick to Vidal's historical fiction pieces and not expect much out of his social satire work. Having started this review with this somewhat negative comment, I should say there is some good stuff about this book. There is still plenty of "Vidalian" wit to enjoy, and some of the imagery and references to 70's culture is pretty amusing. I always get a kick out of end of the world books too, so I am biased in that regard. Still, for this genre, Kalki is pretty out there.
The main character of Kalki is Teddy Ottinger, a smart mouthed feminist who is a world-renowned aviatrix, an author of a feminist tract called "Beyond Motherhood" and an avowed bisexual. It isn't hard to see that Vidal is borrowing heavily from 1970's feminism, with its calls for the ERA and loud blustering. The big news of the day in Teddy's world is an American who is calling himself Kalki, or the avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu. Kalki has returned to the world to end the last cycle of mankind and usher in a new Golden Age of man. Kalki recruits Ottinger as his personal pilot while she is writing a story about him for an American newspaper. Needless to say, lots of hijinks follow, as secret government agents, drug lords and a freaky dude by the name of Dr. Ashok, run around and provide lots of plot twists and turns. Vidal drops lots of clues to what will happen in the end of the book, but the apocalypse Vidal unfolds here is not what Stephen King would have had in mind.
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