Kapitoil by Teddy Wayne
Published by Harper Perennial, an imprint of Harper Collins
It is 1999 and Karim Issar has been brought by Schrub, a financial company, from Qatar to the U.S. to help them with their Y2K transition. Karim isn’t content with the relatively menial Y2K programming, however. He is constantly looking for a project that will both challenge him and allow him to prove his usefulness to his colleagues and superiors. And then he creates Kapitoil, a program that predicts oil prices and makes an absolute killing in the market doing so. Suddenly Karim finds himself thrown into the company of Mr. Schrub himself, but will his programming and new financial success actually bring him happiness?
“Kapitoil” is not a super easy book to get into, mostly because of Karim’s narration. Karim is a very math/science/rules-oriented person for whom English is a second language. As a result, his speech is very regimented and clinical, somewhat stilted. Of course, this is a deliberate story-telling technique by Wayne, not a fault in his writing, but I can easily see it keeping some people from fully engaging in “Kapitoil.” It did get progressively easier to follow karim’s flow as the book progressed and I became more comfortable with his narrative style.
I adored the story that Wayne told through his unique narrator, Karim. Because Karim was so out of his element in US culture, it was fascinating to watch him try to figure out people’s actions, a nice, fairly subtle means of cultural commentary. I also thought that Wayne explored what exactly it is that brings people happiness beautifully; it was so deftly done that I didn’t quite see it coming, and it didn’t come across in the obvious, clichéd manner that such a message often devolves into.
Although this won’t be for everyone, primarily because of the formal, mathematical speech that takes some getting used to, I would still definitely recommend “Kapitoil.”
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