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Gods Without Men

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  3,901 ratings  ·  574 reviews
Viscerally gripping, and intellectually engaging, Gods Without Men is, above all, a heartfelt exploration of the search for pattern and meaning in a chaotic universe.

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
Paperback, 383 pages
Published August 4th 2011 by Hamish Hamilton
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Average rating 3.64  · 
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 ·  3,901 ratings  ·  574 reviews

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Nov 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is all about Coyote. While there a lot of interesting characters in this beautifully written story, they all revolve around the trickster. He needs people. By hook or by crook, his shabby bad self will have worshippers. He’s the genii loci of the Pinnacle rock-formation in the Mojave Desert. So, he keeps coming up with ploys to bring followers to him and his place. This is a Coyote story. And, Coyote asks his penis for advice because it is the smarter of the two.

It’s there before the chapt
switterbug (Betsey)
Mar 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: current-lit-uk
Gods Without Men is a book of many stories, spanning hundreds of years from the 1700’s until 2009. The narratives are involving, often gripping and peopled by characters you largely care about. They cover a wide variety of themes from stock market manipulation, UFO’s, the Iraq war, colonisation and hippy cults, to autism and a myriad of human relationships.
This episodic work is anchored to a barren, unforgiving but beautiful area of the Mojave desert and a specific pinnacle of rocks ........ a b
Jul 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 31, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Ken Feucht
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
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 -
Steven Godin
Jun 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written, thought provoking and highly original, just a few ways to describe Kunzru's perplexing novel. Mainly set in the blistering heat of the Mojave desert around a rock formation known as the pinnacles, that strangely draws people to it's location for mysterious reasons. You really feel like you are actually there in the blazing sun the vast and desolate landscapes. The further you get into it, the more captivating and page-turning it gets, and by the end I was left with a great s ...more
George Ilsley
Aug 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: autism, fiction
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
Apr 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 20, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
There's a butte, called The Pinnacles, located in the Mojave Desert; this is a centuries spanning story of some of the inhabitants and visitors to the nearby town and from the 20th century, military base. Most of the story focus on the 21st century, but has ties that go all the way back to the 18th! A mixed marriage with an Autistic offspring, a depressed British rock star, an Iraqi refugee and Goth(!) searching for identity, young people in the 60s' looking for more, a 'scientist' at the turn o ...more
Mar 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
May 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Mar 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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 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
Kim Horner McCoy
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.
Jan 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Immediately upon putting this one down, I picked up the next Kunzru book. He is for sure not for everyone, but I really loved his prose and the depth of the characters and the use of the mythos of the coyote to tell the story.
Marxist Monkey
Jul 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone,especially lovers of Ben Okri and Thomas Pynchon

Be in the moment. Walk the path that leads in the direction of your dreams. Instead of imagining the worst, bring to mind the best. Go about your business with a light heart and a mind full of love....Once you can let your joy balloon up to the surface, you are halfway towards a new kind of consciousness.... p115

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
Mar 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it did not like it
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 rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 12, 2012 rated it it was ok
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.
Apr 18, 2012 rated it liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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
Eric Wojcik
Jul 29, 2014 rated it liked it
Book-jacket comparisons to Pynchon and DeLillo do Kunzru no favors. He is actually more readable than they are, at least at a prose level, though he can't manage their heft. The true comparison, as others have noted, is to David Mitchell; if Kunzru doesn't ape various styles and genres to the same fidelity Mitchell does in Cloud Atlas, at least Gods Without Men has a point to what he's doing.

It's a turgid novel, however. So many characters that don't seem to serve a point, so many flaky details
Doug H
May 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
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. I now prefer more straightforward narratives. ...more
One of the best novels I've read in years.

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21st Century Lite...: Gods Without Men - Second Half (April 2014) 43 43 Jun 04, 2014 01:49AM  
21st Century Lite...: Gods Without Men - First Half (April 2014) 17 47 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  

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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?”
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