Hari Kunzru. Simon & Schuster Audio, $39.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-7435-3704-9
The e-mail says ""Hi, I saw this and thought of you. Check it out."" When the attachment, Leela.exe, is opened, a radiant image of 21-year-old Bollywood starlet Leela Zahir dances on the screen. Meanwhile, behind the scenes in the guts of the computer, a nasty virus takes root. Arjun Mehta, the timid, unlucky antihero of Kunzru's newest witty and wicked creation (after The Impressionist), released the virus in a desperate attempt to regain his job at a global securities company. Instead, his creation ends up causing billions of dollars in damages and disrupting the lives of young British entrepreneur Guy Swift, his glamorous girlfriend Gabriella and the actual starlet, Leela Zahir. It's often the kiss of death to have an author narrate his or her own audiobook--not so in Kunzru's case. His reading is strong, yet subtle. Although he does not give each of his complex characters their own identifiable voice (except when a character hails from a different country), he makes up for that fact with his dramatic prowess. Each line of dialogue is not read so much as spoken, with all the inflection and emotional impact that a talented actor would convey. This is a thrilling audio experience and an intelligent look at contemporary culture gone awry.
Reviewed on: 05/01/2004