10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
The X-Files Meets Carlos Castaneda,
This review is from: Gods Without Men (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)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-born Indian) and Lisa (raised in the Jewish faith). Jaz doesn't embrace the religion and culture of his parents, yet it still manages to become a barrier between him and his wife. His parents' superstitious ideas - especially with regards to why their grandson is the way he is - grate on Lisa, causing resentment bordering on hatred. When Raj vanishes into the Californian desert, the clash of ideologies between Lisa and Jaz becomes more evident than ever. Lisa opens herself to the idea that spiritual intervention could help find her lost child. Jaz, however, remains firmly rooted in the material world. Believing that his son has been abducted, Jaz thinks that only physical evidence can lead the path to finding the child.
Raj's disappearance happens near The Pinnacles, a rock formation which has for centuries attracted those who believe the stones to have miraculous metaphysical properties. Some chapters are set in the 1800s, when local Native Americans thought The Pinnacles marked the boundary between the lands of the living and the dead. Other chapters, set in the mid-1900s, tell the tale of people flocking to the area to commune with higher intelligences, the Ascended Masters, using The Pinnacles to transmit and receive 'light energy'. The rest of the chapters, set in the present day, focus on Raj's disappearance and subsequent return to the world a changed boy. The present-day occurrences at The Pinnacles echo events from the past, and hint at their significance. Kunzru's descriptions of the area's relevance to various people and eras are eloquent and extremely readable. He doesn't spoon-feed the reader, leaving him/her to draw conclusions and fill in myriad blanks, some of which are perhaps too vast.
My only criticism is that some of the story's strands are left flapping as loose ends, hinting that they were superfluous padding rather than integral parts of the plot. The myriad storylines and timelines lack a unified sense of interconnectedness, which wouldn't happen in, for example, a Salman Rushdie novel. That said, 'Gods Without Men' is a well-written book which demonstrates Kunzru's incisive understanding of human nature and behaviour.