cover image The Immortal King Rao

The Immortal King Rao

Vauhini Vara. Norton, $27.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-393-54175-5

Technology journalist Vara’s potent debut revolves around a global society run by a corporate board. King Rao, legendary tech mogul and brainchild of the new world order, has died in mysterious circumstances, leaving his daughter, Athena, to preserve his legacy. Her first challenge is to prove herself innocent of accusations of conspiring to have him murdered. The Harmonica, an internet-connected device King invented and implanted in Athena’s brain, gives her access to all his memories, and she uses it to relive the traumatic circumstances of her father’s birth in 1950s India, which resulted in his mother’s death; his childhood years spent in the tiny village of Kothapalli before his migration to the U.S.; and his invention of the Coconut, a revolutionary computer that brought about immense global progress and indirectly led to his downfall. Even more pressing than Athena’s need to prove her innocence is her mission to distinguish herself from her father’s legacy and spread the truth about the board’s role in climate change, which leads her to seek out the “Exes”—estranged citizens who have rejected the current model of government. Throughout, Vara ingeniously identifies portentous links between history and the book’s present, such as the parallel Athena draws between the rise and fall of the East India Company with the Shareholder government run by her father. And with King “cursed” at birth, Vara succeeds at making her family portrait the stuff of myth. This is not to be missed. (May)