The Immortal King Rao

Norton. May 2022. 384p. ISBN 9780393541755. $27.95. SF
DEBUT O. Henry Prize winner Vara (a former technology reporter at the Wall Street Journal) has written a dystopian debut climate change novel that combines elements of speculative, literary, and historical fiction. In a near-future North America, Athena Rao reckons with the legacy of her father, King Rao, who leads the nation-state-corporation that governs the world through the weaponization of human consumerism and corporate greed. King Rao created Athena through a combination of IVF and quantum computing, embedding in her brain a device that allows her to experience both his long, singular life as well as her own. By viewing her father’s memories (his 1950s birth into a modest family of Dalit coconut farmers in India; his meteoric rise as a successful tech CEO; his current seat at the pinnacle of global power), Athena learns how the world got the way it is. She is all too aware of how capably her father’s worldwide network and its “Shareholders” can hide unwelcome truths, especially the real status of the runaway climate change that is already destroying the planet—as is apparent to some who are willing to see it. As Athena pulls away from her father and escapes the grasp of his myths and conditioning, she attempts to draw attention to the painful reality of the climate threat, only to become a victim of the all-seeing supranational corporate hegemony he created.
VERDICT Highly recommended for readers of climate fiction, social engineering sf, and dystopian catastrophe novels.
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