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Gods Without Men

3.64  ·  Rating Details ·  2,961 Ratings  ·  477 Reviews
In the desert, you see, there is everything and nothing . . . It is God without men.
—Honoré de Balzac, Une passion dans le désert, 1830

Jaz and Lisa Matharu are plunged into a surreal public hell after their son, Raj, vanishes during a family vacation in the California desert. However, the Mojave is a place of strange power, and before Raj reappears inexplicably unharmed—b
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published March 6th 2012 by Knopf (first published August 4th 2011)
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switterbug (Betsey)
There’s a sense of both turbulence and utter stillness in Kunzru’s latest novel, and a feeling of vastness and confinement. Spanning 250 years, (non-linearly), the story takes place largely in the xeric and sparsely populated Mojave Desert, at the high-energy Pinnacles, or three-fingered rock formations. The people who populate this novel tend to be restive fringe dwellers, a colorful cast of alien, isolated, and even immortal characters. A Franciscan priest, an anthropologist, hippies, drug add ...more
Jul 09, 2012 FrankH rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title is lifted from text in a Honore Balzac short story, but the vibration here -- resonating with themes embracing UFO-ology, quant stock-trading models, cultural clashes and all manner of odd latter-day convergences -- is a long way from 19th century France. In another, more recent era, Gods Without Men might have been labeled 'druggy', edgy, Pynchon-like; today, the author Kunzru seems to be saying, we don't need the drugs to induce the drug-induced consciousness: Just start connecting t ...more
Gods without men is a very fascinating book though it left me a little dissapointed in the end as I expected more coherence.
It is easier to set up an intriguing premise and throw in more and more complications and tantalizing stuff but harder to either bring some sense of completion or just keep things rolling but performing a magic trick on the reader so he or she is happy enough with the local resolutions.
David Mitchell did it in his masterpiece Cloud Atlas to which Gods without men compares -
Ken Feucht
Apr 09, 2012 Ken Feucht rated it it was ok
If Hari Kunzru released a sequel to "Gods Without Men," I would read it in a second. I enjoyed reading the stories of several characters across time focused around a rock formation in the Nevada desert. It's just that the stories didn't end. The main story is sold as being about a couple whose son disappears in the desert and returns "changed." The problem is, the son returns in the last sixth of the book. His story is never really explored.

The same is true of a teenaged Iraqi girl whose back st
Brenda Ayala
Oct 31, 2012 Brenda Ayala rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
I frankly don't see what the big deal is about this book. I understand the concept Kunzru was saying. I really do. But I hated this book. I finished it and all I could think was I wasted my time. Frankly, I didn't care about any of the characters. His style was stupid. He introduced us to huge amounts of characters, gave them elaborate backstories that explained how they got to wherever they were, then never mentions them again. What's the point? I now know about Dawn, the woman who joined a cou ...more
Apr 18, 2012 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved every last crazy component in this one - the hippie cult making drone music to contact aliens, the old Indian legends that may or may not have come to life, the British rock star trying to get the Laurel Canyon thing, the NY family caught between cultures and stock market crashes, the droll parody of an American military base with an Iraqi girl having to play a fictionalized version of her old life ... every story could've been a full novel on its own, but together they create a time-tri ...more
Mar 20, 2012 Danny rated it really liked it
"I've been through the desert on a horse with no name, it felt good to be out of the rain."

The lyrics to that song might as well be playing in the background as you read Gods Without Men, because it's all about the desert.

In the middle of the Mojave there's a butte topped by three spires of rock called the Pinnacles. It's the sort of a place that has a power all its own, and the characters in this novel find themselves drawn there. Skipping through time, from Spanish missionaries in 1778 to a
James Murphy
Jan 18, 2013 James Murphy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You don't often think of Moby-Dick in connection with the Mojave Desert. However, the white nothingness suggested by the whale is present in the vast empty waste of cactus, sand, wind, sun, and sky. The novelist Don DeLillo is present, too, because Hari Kunzru's Gods Without Men touches on many of the same themes DeLillo concerns himself with: a world defined by signs, some of them seen as sacred, paranoia, a connection between earth and sky, a connection between this world and the Land of the D ...more
Mar 08, 2012 Judy rated it really liked it

What could a UFO hippie cult, a British rock star, a Spanish Franciscan priest, the son of a Sikh and his autistic son have in common? The Mohave Desert, for one thing. A search for meaning that connects the earthbound physical plane with the spiritual, for another. In his fourth novel, Hari Kunzru confronts head on the quandries of modern life while walking a fine line between irony and emotion, between serious and lighthearted, without missing a step.

He opens with a piece of flash fiction invo
Mar 02, 2012 Sofia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: n-america, literary
The best novel I read in a long time and I doubt it'll be topped by anything else this year. I can't believe this book didn't get more attention. I mean, if you like Jennifer Egan and/or David Mitchell you should not miss this.
Kunzru does the whole novel of ideas across time and continents thing as Mitchell and his writing has the same refinement if you know what I mean. He also reminds me of Egan with his talent for writing multiple characters in unique and pitch-perfect voices. He steers away
Mar 23, 2012 Arjun rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A kind of miracle. A plotless masterpiece. Well, no. There is a plot. It involves a rock formation in the desert. And an autistic boy. And some hippies. And, um, some redneck Indian hunters. No. Wait. This is a metaphysical book about our place in the world. About hope and loss. About humans trying to make sense of things. About feeling small in a big world. No. Wait. It's a book about what happens over the course of a few centuries around a rock formation in the desert in California. And God. O ...more
Jul 12, 2013 David rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If there is a sequel to this book, I won't bother reading it. If you're 250 pages in and new characters are still being introduced and half developed, you're doing something wrong. In my opinion not one of the characters, time frames, or narratives were ever fully explained or finalized. It as if the author got bored with developing certain characters and moved on to others only to do the same, over and over. This is the first review I have posted here, but it just goes to show you how frustrati ...more
Feb 04, 2014 Flor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stories within stories, I enjoyed the complexity. Some of the chapters are wonderfully engaging, but I found I had to struggle through others. If you look at the synopsis, you will understand why. Such a diverse cast of characters! So many intricately woven threads which ultimately result in an unfinished tapestry. Recommended for those with the patience, time and willingness to make connections, and the ability to accept being left with unsolved mysteries.
Kim Horner McCoy
May 07, 2012 Kim Horner McCoy rated it it was ok
Shelves: bought-new
With development and coherence, this could have been three really good novels. As it stands, it feels like notes for three good novels and one average episode of the X-Files.
Apr 18, 2012 Ms.pegasus rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone seriously exploring our relationship to death; fans of "The Changeling" by Kenzaburo
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mark Rice
Sep 18, 2011 Mark Rice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gods Without Men was both compelling and frustrating. Hari Kunzru's descriptive writing is emotive and effective, as is his characterisation. My frustration stemmed from the various plotlines and timelines failing to be tied together to a coherent degree. In that respect, the book could be compared to a literary X-Files, as it leaves the reader to fill in substantial gaps with his/her imagination.

The main characters are Raj Matharu (a four-year-old autistic boy) and his parents, Jaz (an American
William Thomas
Welcome to the brave new world of literature. Hari Kunzru squeezes himself into the Nu-Nu Literati by beat-boxing out what is mostly snippets of the life stories of, well, one too many people and throws in the odd sci-fi quirk for good measure, just so he can be named in the same sentence as Salman Rushdie when we compare this to something like Shalimar the Clown. Is this what you wanted, Hari? For me to put your name in the post-Gaddis, post-Vollman, post-Pynchon elite? Right there next to that ...more
Marxist Monkey
Jul 23, 2012 Marxist Monkey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It might be too strong to call this a masterpiece. Yes, that would be too strong. It might be that my experience of this book has been too strongly effected by my own mild experience of alienation and exile over the past four months. It might be that the accident of my having just read Murakami and Eugenides and Riley has led me to exactly the place where this book could hit as hard as it did.

What is it about? The longing for meaning. The anxiety of parenting. The illusion of meaning and the ill
George Ilsley
Aug 15, 2012 George Ilsley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, autism
With a cover blurb from David Mitchell, it is not surprising that this novel first evokes The Cloud Atlas. However, this novel skips back and forth and around and it can be hard to keep characters in mind. This book also posed a challenge to the marketing department. It is most often described as being about an autistic boy lost in the desert, and yes, this does happen. On page 190. Obviously the novel is about much more than that, and I suspect the marketing department was scared of mentioning ...more
Steven  Godin
Jun 21, 2015 Steven Godin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, mystery
Beautifully written, thought provoking and highly original just a few things to say about this book.Mainly set in the blistering heat of the mojave desert around a rock formation known as the pinnacles you really feel like you are actually there,the blazing sun the vast and desolate landscape the stars at night all brilliantly rendered. The further you get into it the more captivating and mysterious it gets and by the end I was left with a great sense of wonder, with the last few pages actually ...more
Apr 12, 2012 Wanda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Took me a while to plow through this metaphysical contemplation. I actually almost did not make it, but I kept going. Not going to waste a lot of time writing a review, except to say that it was self-indulgent mental meanderings that did not provoke any new insights or thought patterns in this reader. Glad it was a library borrow.
Jan 08, 2012 Magdelanye rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone,especially lovers of Ben Okri and Thomas Pynchon
This brilliant romp of a novel crisscrosses the centuries,delightfully illuminating the New Age cliche that everything is connected,especially ancient power spots and people who share the same kind of delusions.

I am sure the only reason people everywhere arent raving about this is the conspiracy against intelligent fun.
Feb 13, 2014 Deborah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 I think. There are places where the writing is just what I want. There are places where the story just delivers. Overall, odd, quirky and engrossing.
Mar 25, 2012 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a knock out of a book because he captured the main character of the book, the Mojave Desert in all its contradictions of desolation and consolation, fullness and barrenness, luxuriousness and starkness. It's a novel about misfits attracted to a mystical, hardscrabble place with a power all its own. I can think of only of Cormac McCarthy and Edward Abbey who also have managed to capture the desert in its brilliant extremes. Having grown up within spitting distance of the locale, Twentynin ...more
Aug 21, 2015 Keith rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2015
Sometimes, in fiction as in life, the parts do not always add up to a whole. Such is the problem with this deeply imagined and challenging book. It is a novel of many parts, most of it centered on the Mojave Desert and the hold the desert's sacred places have exerted on very differing sorts of pilgrims. The parts are illustrated with stories from as far back as 1775 to the present day. Nearly all whose stories are told are attracted to a specific rock formation in the desert. The book finds its ...more
Bonnie Brody
Apr 06, 2013 Bonnie Brody rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gods Without Men tells about the mystery of the high desert in what is now San Bernardino County, California. Hari Kuzru is a masterful storyteller, weaving legend, Native American culture, hippie life and the disappearance of an autistic child into a compelling weave of interlocking narratives with the power of myth.

The novel features a fantastic cast of characters who run through time from the late 1700's to 2009. What holds them all together is their connection to the mysteries of the high de
May 27, 2012 Tuck rated it it was amazing
an incredible novel of modern times usa. a filthy rich physicist slash wall street trader and his writerly stay at home wife and their autistic boy take a trip to mojave desert to sort their shit out because family is disintegrating. they end up in what turns out to be a power center of the universe (who knew?) where novel bops back and forth from 1950's cult leader building a communications device to talk with all the helpful aliens who want to tell us earthlings how to live and 1500's spanish ...more
Mar 19, 2014 Daniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm still struggling to pin down exactly what this book was about, and I think that is perhaps its greatest strength. It's simply too big and ambitious to be boxed into anything so convenient as an explanation.

My first reaction upon finishing was to throw up my hands in frustration at the tangled mess left by Kunzru, but that lasted all of a minute to be quickly replaced by a steady rumination over the many plot lines. It's a thoughtful book with some of the most perspicacious character sketches
Doug H
May 21, 2013 Doug H rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked some aspects of this quite a lot. I admire the author for his uniquely pieced narrative style and for his ability to make the reader feel as though they are inhabiting his characters. Great descriptive language, unique and thoughtful fun style. If you like your literature postmodern, I highly recommend it. As for me, I might have liked it more if I'd read it when I was younger. Older and more full of crotchetiness now, I prefer my stories told straighter.
Steve McCann
Sep 08, 2012 Steve McCann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Deeply affecting & impressive book dealing with the hollow/interstitial/Bardo space that surrounds a person when life stops making sense and bad things happen to undeserving people. The scene that gets me is Coyote (yeah, that one) drinking jack & coke, quiet under the desert stars after his day cooking meth; like a God deeply unaffected by the pain around him or maybe contemplative following a coming to terms with its necessity. Maybe just drunk.
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21st Century Lite...: Gods Without Men - Second Half (April 2014) 43 40 Jun 04, 2014 01:49AM  
21st Century Lite...: Gods Without Men - First Half (April 2014) 17 44 Apr 25, 2014 12:17AM  
21st Century Lite...: April 2014 Moderator Pick 3 63 Mar 12, 2014 12:37PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Combine 2 16 Aug 11, 2012 11:59PM  
What happened to Raj? 3 54 May 27, 2012 05:21PM  
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Hari Mohan Nath Kunzru (born 1969) is a British novelist and journalist, author of the novels The Impressionist, Transmission and My Revolutions. Of mixed English and Kashmiri Pandit ancestry, he grew up in Essex. He studied English at Wadham College, Oxford University, then gained an MA in Philosophy and Literature from Warwick University. His work has been translated into twenty languages. He li ...more
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“What if one were to want to hunt for these hidden presences? You can’t just rummage around like you’re at a yard sale. You have to listen. You have to pay attention. There are certain things you can’t look at directly. You need to trick them into revealing themselves. That’s what we’re doing with Walter, Jaz. We’re juxtaposing things, listening for echoes. It’s not some silly cybernetic dream of command and control, modeling the whole world so you can predict the outcome. It’s certainly not a theory of everything. I don’t have a theory of any kind. What I have is far more profound.’

‘What’s that?’

‘A sense of humor.’

Jaz looked at him, trying to find a clue in his gaunt face, in the clear gray eyes watching him with such - what? Amusement? Condescension? There was something about the man which brought on a sort of hermeneutic despair. He was a forest of signs.

‘We’re hunting for jokes.’ Bachman spoke slowly, as if to a child. ‘Parapraxes. Cosmic slips of the tongue. They’re the key to the locked door. They’ll help us discover it.’

‘Discover what?’

‘The face of God. What else would we be looking for?”
“Driving was almost the only thing that felt natural in America. It was traditional. It was patriotic. When you accelerated, you could almost hear the crowd cheering you on.” 3 likes
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