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Kalki Mass Market Paperback

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345278739
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345278739
  • Product Dimensions: 17.5 x 10.4 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,582,829 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By margaret sheridan on 28 Mar. 2004
Format: Paperback
First and only book I have read by Gore Vidal. Such a good and intelligent story. Enjoyed it immensly. Opens up your imagination A sinister look into how the world operates. Made me realise how important and powerful pilots are. A pretty nice way to kill masses of people, Enjoy
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By al m on 14 Mar. 2007
Format: Hardcover
I get the impression that this is the kind of book that you have to 'study' rather than just read to get the full benefit of it.

I enjoyed the first half, and it brought up some interesting questions, but after the 'event' I felt the plot went downhill and was more a vehicle for the message Vidal wanted to communicate than a believeable and engaging story.

It did not encourage me to explore any of his other works, but having discussed it with other I know a lot of people disagree with me
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 28 Jun. 2000
Format: Paperback
I read this book 12 years ago and thought it was fantastic! But I leant it to a friend and didn't get it back! I can't believe that it is now out of print!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 28 reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
That '70s Book 22 Dec. 2003
By Andrew McCaffrey - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
KALKI is very much a product of its time. And, as that time was the late '70s, one can see that the book is obsessed with many of the same things that other products of that era were fascinated by. The main protagonist is a female, she's an avowed feminist, she's overtly bisexual, she's an airplane test pilot, she constantly thinks about Amelia Earhart, and her autobiography was a rejection of motherly values, ghost-written by a man selected by her publishing company.
The rest of the story is similarly '70s in flavor. An Eastern/Hindu religious sect is claiming that their god Kalki has been reincarnated in the form of an ex-army soldier from the American Midwest. Their scripture claims that when Kalki returns to ride the white horse, the world will end soon afterwards; only the chosen few will survive. Naturally, since this is the '70s, everyone on the planet becomes obsessed with the Kalki story. The newsmagazine show, "60 Minutes" produces an unusually long segment investigating the Kalki phenomenon. Even Walter Cronkite gets into the act, making an amused comment on the impending end of the world.
In between the references to Watergate and the mentions of Ronald Reagan, there's a very effective religious satire going on here. Gore Vidal paints his satirical strokes a little broad at times, but when he focuses, the story soars. Fun is poked at, not only the religious cults that were springing up at the time, but many aspects of pop culture. Some of the jokes still apply today, of course. In fact, were this book to be written now, many of the shots at television news coverage wouldn't need to be changed at all.
Although the book seems most concerned with its satire, it also works extremely well as straight adventure/thriller. A genuinely enjoyable story, I simply could not figure out what direction it was going to go in next. The gothic tone of the ending slips in nicely after the whimsy of the beginning and middle. Vidal manages to get the balance of comedy and drama just right. Some moments are laugh out loud funny, while a page later one will be faced with sudden and utter horror.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Warning Messiahs can be extremely dangerous to your Health 10 July 1999
By A Customer - Published on
This is scary, devillish and brilliant stuff. I am writing this review about two hours after finishing Kalki. I' d love to delete the experience from my memory so I could do so again. The premise is that a bisexual writer and aviatrix named Teddy Ottinger is given the chance of the ultimate scoop. A former Vietnam vet named Jimmy Kelly has announced he is the AVATAR (incarnation) of Kalki. He is holed up in an ashram in Nepal. The end pof the world is nigh. Meanwhile, his retinue of deluded bourgeois American youth is handing out white lotuses on the nation's streets.Teddy must fly with him like her heroine Amelia Erhart and scoop the rival networks. The poers that be suspect a drug-ring. Those who know of Hinduism know Kalki as the tenth and final incarnation of the great Vishnu, sacred 33% of the "Trimurti", also including Brahma and Siva. Mr Kelly proves to be a worthy messiah. The book keeps you turning the pages. The end is utterly convincing. Real grist to to the mill in that eternal debate. Are we here because some Preserver-Destroyer-Creator being wills it, now and forever? Are we here because a few eons back, some monkeys (Jack and Jill?) threw a bone in the air and never looked back?
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Master of understatement, Vidal's novel is deeply disturbing 1 May 2004
By The Awakening - Published on
Format: Paperback
I cannot tell you what is deeply disturbing about this novel in regards to the actual plot without giving much of it away--which would be a crime and a half for a novel of this punch. Suffice it to say that despite the fact that Vidal puts enough aspects of 70s culture into it to make it fresh and new for when it was written, it carries even more power--and becomes even more disturbing--when read in our new millenium; almost as much as it would have had I read it in 1999.
There is a woman named Teddy Ottinger: feminist, an aviatrix extraordinaire, divorced mother of two; longing to step into the shoes of her immortal hero Amelia Earhart, even at the expense of the emotional lives of her children, for whom she has little true maternal feelings and little more than a contempt for her ex-husband that had to have been there latently when she married him. Cold, but searching for love and warmth in the arms of both lesbian women and men--and something of meaning in her life via French philosophy--she is summoned to the world of Kalki, the tenth avatar of the god Vishnu, harbringer of the end of the world. But he may also be someone else; a someone else that could make this entire fantasy world she is seemingly caught up in a dangerous lie. Or, he could simply be Kalki, and the world must prepare for the End...
Vidal channels Mark Twain in our century like he always does and creates a novel of social criticism with a style and expertise of which few in history have ever equalled. But with this novel he weaves essential Hinduism and the CIA into it in a way that makes one question not just American society, but reality itself. In two hundred plus pages Vidal will have you sitting on the edge of the bed at two o'clock in the morning with this novel, not being able to put it down, yet being afraid to read the final chapters.
And make no mistake, the final chapters will blow your mind.
I highly recommend this one.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Not The Best Vidal Has To Offer 17 Mar. 2001
By Jeffrey Leach - Published on
Format: Paperback
I figured I would give this one a shot after reading Vidal's masterpiece Burr. Burr was absolutely brilliant and flowed like rich cream. This book, which deals with an apocalyptic scenario set against the background of 1970's pop culture, was much less impressive. Maybe I should stick to Vidal's historical fiction pieces and not expect much out of his social satire work. Having started this review with this somewhat negative comment, I should say there is some good stuff about this book. There is still plenty of "Vidalian" wit to enjoy, and some of the imagery and references to 70's culture is pretty amusing. I always get a kick out of end of the world books too, so I am biased in that regard. Still, for this genre, Kalki is pretty out there.
The main character of Kalki is Teddy Ottinger, a smart mouthed feminist who is a world-renowned aviatrix, an author of a feminist tract called "Beyond Motherhood" and an avowed bisexual. It isn't hard to see that Vidal is borrowing heavily from 1970's feminism, with its calls for the ERA and loud blustering. The big news of the day in Teddy's world is an American who is calling himself Kalki, or the avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu. Kalki has returned to the world to end the last cycle of mankind and usher in a new Golden Age of man. Kalki recruits Ottinger as his personal pilot while she is writing a story about him for an American newspaper. Needless to say, lots of hijinks follow, as secret government agents, drug lords and a freaky dude by the name of Dr. Ashok, run around and provide lots of plot twists and turns. Vidal drops lots of clues to what will happen in the end of the book, but the apocalypse Vidal unfolds here is not what Stephen King would have had in mind.
What is interesting about this book is that it serves as a snapshot of late 1970's culture. I can just imagine that if this book is still read several centuries from now, that there will be fifty pages of footnotes in the back, defining such terms as Reverend Moon, est, and other events that were so relevant in the 1970's. The book also attacks the widespread attention that religious cults were attracting during the time this book was written. It's not surprising that Vidal picks a religion from the East as his delivery device for destruction. Lots of people were turning to Katmandu for guidance, apparently as the 1960's and early 1970's faded and new ideas of "turning on" were hard to find. Vidal savagely attacks the shallowness of cults and people that believe mindlessly in any type of contrivance that promises them something. In this way the book works, but it fails in other ways.
As mentioned above, this book lacks Vidal's usual magic. Maybe this sub par book is part of the larger malaise that gripped the U.S. in the late 1970's. Maybe it is part of the national hangover that occurred during this time, as America woke up from the 1960's with a dry mouth, a nasty headache, and wondered where it had been the night before. Even better, maybe Vidal planned his book to read this way to reflect the weariness of the time, although I'm probably giving him way more credit then he deserves with this theory. Anyway, it just lacks his typical majesty, although the book was hard to put down at times, and I did care somewhat about how things turned out, which isn't too bad. I can't say I cared much for Teddy, who quickly became annoying with her smart mouthed comments and her constant references to ghostwriter Weiss (who helped her write Beyond Motherhood). Maybe Gore was dealing with memories of his own experience with a ghostwriter? Whatever it is, it became wearisome very quickly.
Would I recommend Kalki to someone else? It depends on whether that someone is a Gore Vidal fan. It also depends on whether someone knows the 1970's and likes apocalyptic literature. If none of the above criteria are met, skip this book. Recommended (with reservations).
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
One of the more readable of Vidal's "inventions" 28 April 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a very enjoyable read from Vidal. A cult led by a charismatic figure may or may not be able to bring about the end of the world. This is a funny-and scary-novel. Vidal's dialogue is witty. His observations are dead on target. The story moves forward rapidly, with few of Vidal's usual tangential meanderings. This may be because Vidal realizes that he has a great story to tell or that he was writing with one eye on a film deal (In fact, it was once planned as a movie with Mick Jagger playing the role of the cult figure). Not to be missed.
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