Friday, 5 August 2011

What we’re reading… Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru

Here at Book Festival HQ we’re lucky enough to have every book in the programme at our disposal. Over the next few weeks we’ll be bringing you some reviews of what us Book Festival folk have been reading. Today it’s the brand new Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru…
In this striking novel by Hari Kunzru, what at first appears to be a series of disparate and unrelated stories soon emerges as the unfolding history of a place; a specific spot in the Arizona desert which acts as some kind of bizarre conduit to another dimension. This is a magical landscape where anything seems possible, but where time leaves little trace of the secrets and stories that it might hold.
Reading it, you often feel like you are in the middle of one of Louis Theroux's 'Weird Weekends' complete with wacky tales of alien encounters, hippy cults, creepy military bases set up as fake Iraqi encampments and mythical stories of voyages into the ancient native Indian Land of the Dead, but what emerges from all these 'far out' scenarios is both a sense of how little we know for sure about things beyond ourselves and a deep sense of interconnectedness.
Despite taking place decades or even centuries apart, the characters jump between stories, appearing in another character's tale in a different guise or a different age and reminding us that no act that we commit is a single, unrelated event and that even the most seemingly random and insignificant encounters are in fact only part of a much bigger chain of being. 
The episodes are often told with humour and a tongue-in-cheek playfulness whilst challenging our beliefs, or perhaps rather our lack of belief. Only one thing remains certain and that is that we can never know anything for sure…