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REVIEW: "Transmission", Hari Kunzru

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  • Rob, grandpa of Ryan, Trevor, Devon & Ha
    BKTRNMSN.RVW 20041001 Transmission , Hari Kunzru, 2004, 0-525-94760-4, U$24.95/C$36.00 %A Hari Kunzru %C 10 Alcorn Ave, Suite 300, Toronto, Ontario, M4V
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 17, 2004
      BKTRNMSN.RVW 20041001

      "Transmission", Hari Kunzru, 2004, 0-525-94760-4, U$24.95/C$36.00
      %A Hari Kunzru
      %C 10 Alcorn Ave, Suite 300, Toronto, Ontario, M4V 3B2
      %D 2004
      %G 0-525-94760-4
      %I Penguin/Signet/Roc/Dutton
      %O U$24.95/C$36.00 416-925-2249 Fax: 416-925-0068 service@...
      %O http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0525947604/robsladesinterne
      %O http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/0525947604/robsladesin03-20
      %P 276 p.
      %T "Transmission"

      I should like this more than I do. It's not only a story about
      technology, but about viruses, and even about the antivirus industry.

      Unfortunately, it's not a really great story. Boy wants to come to
      America. Boy gets to come to America. Boy is a fish out of water.
      Boy gets job. Boy loses job. Boy writes a virus. Etc. However, I
      may be wrong in my assessment of the plot. It's hard to say that
      there *is* a plot: this seems to be just a loose collection of short
      stories, or even mere sketches.

      The writing is generally pedestrian: almost completely devoid of wit
      or poetry. (From the book jacket bio, it would appear that Kunzru was
      a journalist before he started writing novels. It shows in the turgid
      but steady relation of activities, without any explanation of
      motivations or character development that might make readers care.)
      While there are occasional flashes of style in places, in this work
      they only seem to make the dull, plodding progression of one darned
      thing after another that much more annoying.

      The characters are unattractive. They also seem to be inconsistent,
      but it is difficult to say that for sure, since we don't get to know
      very much about them. Personally, I stopped caring, fairly early on.

      The book is intended to be a comedy, or at least a satire: Ugly
      Americans/westerners, fish-out-of-water young Indian programmer.
      However, any supposed social observations are not exactly biting but
      merely whiny: real satire should have a point. The only message in
      the book seems to be that people are venal and stupid. This would
      seem to be a) apparent, and b) not worth taking almost 300 pages to
      point out.

      The technical references at the beginning of the book are reasonable.
      (Given the people who gave technical assistance, it would be a wonder
      otherwise.) However, Kunzru has learned just enough to pick up some
      buzzwords, without understanding the underlying concepts. The virus
      that is created in the book is the mythical supervirus: impossible to
      detect, infinitely malleable, and capable of infecting any possible
      computer or operating system platform. Just how it performs these
      miracles is left unstated.

      Basically, I suppose I am being hard on the book because it was
      disappointing. There are all kinds of interesting things to say about
      the clash between the world of style and the world of substance. (And
      interesting questions to ask about where information technology fits.)
      There are points to be raised about cross-cultural recruiting,
      management of technology, and even virus activity itself. Instead,
      Kunzru has given us a work where the impossible virus does silly and
      trivial things, ultimately ending up as little more than a running

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 2004 BKTRNMSN.RVW 20041001

      ====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
      rslade@... slade@... rslade@...
      Basic research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing
      - Werner von Braun
      http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade
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