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Fiction / Dystopian > The Immortal King Rao

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The Immortal King Rao: A Novel

By Vauhini Vara

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Publish Date

April 04, 2023


Fiction / Literary
Fiction / Satire


Finalist for the 2023 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction • One of The New York Times 100 Notable books of 2022 • One of NPR's Books We Love in 2022 • Named a Best Book of the Year by Esquire, Vox, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Literary Hub
Shortlisted for the 2022 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize

In an Indian village in the 1950s, a precocious child is born into a family of Dalit coconut farmers. King Rao will grow up to be the most accomplished tech CEO in the world and, eventually, the leader of a global, corporate-led government.

In a future in which the world is run by the Board of Corporations, King’s daughter, Athena, reckons with his legacy—literally, for he has given her access to his memories, among other questionable gifts.

With climate change raging, Athena has come to believe that saving the planet and its Shareholders will require a radical act of communion—and so she sets out to tell the truth to the world’s Shareholders, in entrancing sensory detail, about King’s childhood on a South Indian coconut plantation; his migration to the U.S. to study engineering in a world transformed by globalization; his marriage to the ambitious artist with whom he changed the world; and, ultimately, his invention, under self-exile, of the most ambitious creation of his life—Athena herself.

The Immortal King Rao
, written by a former Wall Street Journal technology reporter, is a resonant debut novel obliterating the boundaries between literary and speculative fiction, the historic and the dystopian, confronting how we arrived at the age of technological capitalism and where our actions might take us next.
Vauhini Vara has been a reporter and editor for the Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, and the New York Times Magazine, and is the prize-winning author of The Immortal King Rao. She lives in Fort Collins, Colorado.

ISBN: 9781324050308
Format: Paperback
Pages: 384
Publisher: WW Norton
Published: April 04, 2023

[The Immortal King Rao] is a monumental achievement: beautiful and brilliant, heartbreaking and wise, but also pitiless, which may be controversial to list among its virtues but is in fact essential to its success. Vara respects her reader and herself too much to yield to the temptation to console us. How rare these days as a reader — and how bracing, in the finest way — to encounter a novel that refuses to treat you like a child or a studio audience. If that were the only thing to love about ‘Rao,’ it would probably be enough. But as I’ve said, there’s also everything else. —Justin Taylor, The New York Times

Utterly, thrillingly brilliant. From the first unforgettable page to the last, The Immortal King Rao is a form-inventing, genre-exploding triumph. Vauhini Vara’s bravura debut has reshaped my brain and expanded my heart. —R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries

In this richly imagined saga spanning past, present, and future, Vauhini Vara brings us a visionary who makes the world in his image, and the strong-willed daughter whose life could be his final legacy. Vara’s brilliance is matched only by her heart, and this unforgettable debut will challenge what you think you know about genius, capitalism, consciousness, and what it means to be human.—Anna North, author of Outlawed

[The Immortal King Rao] is a nuanced portrayal of a community that rarely appears in novels published by major presses in the West... In Vara’s book, Dalits are not victims, but entrepreneurs, innovators and geniuses. —Alisha Haridasani Gupta, The New York Times

Vara comes out the gate with a masterwork: a book that is three great novels in one–the tale of a thriving and chaotic Dalit clan in the first decades of independent India; an immigrant success story in ’80s America; and a dystopian nightmare of the post-Trump future. —Karan Mahajan, author of The Association of Small Bombs

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