Book Review: Kanan Gill’s ‘Acts of God’ is Good. Genuinely Good.

What is an ‘Act of God’? A force majeure? And why does this idea have lasting power?

The idea of divine intervention or even the prospect of creation lends itself dramatically to man’s primordial anxiety regarding free will and his desperate desire for glorious autonomy, while couching a paradoxical secret hope for an otherworldly force that assists and, by means of complex spiritual machinations, guides.

In science fiction, this paradoxical wishing finds logical and imaginative exploration. This is where man can stage the prospect of crude creationism, of a world determined and designed, the glowing possibility of simulacra. In our shared Anthropocene, we are much too familiar with the ongoing discourse around AI. Conversations on the promises of artificial intelligence and the imagined bottomless potential of such machine capability. Here, man feels both empowered and circumcised–he has created an object that ‘creates’, and has simultaneously birthed a fearsome competitor in the job market. This resembles and reanimates the age-old father v. son dynamic, known by permutations such as  God v. Adam, God v. Satan, Vader v. Luke, Man v. Machines and all such do androids dream of electric sheep shenanigans.

In philosophy, this anxiety about free will and the fun-scary thought of creationism finds multiple homes in a plethora of discourses, but most prominently within the discourse of existentialism. When we discuss the idea of being able to create, nay the possibility of creation, we then also entertain the thought of being created. It swings both ways, fearfully hard, and thus opens up a loop of the chicken and the egg which is all hypothetical of course, but still, maddening. Another place where the chicken and the egg finds fun representation is within the topsy-turvy-batshit-crazy world of all-goes- postmodernism.

If you know Calvino, Fowles, or even Kanan Gill now, you know what it means to read a book where the author knows you’re reading and the characters are poking holes in the all too porous boundaries of the narrative. In postmodernism, Austen could tell Jane to get a move on when it came to Wickham, and could similarly call you out for problematically romanticising Darcy’s many flaws. She could also write a Jane who, upon hearing this instruction, would relinquish all hopes for romance and embark on a globe-trotting trip with her four sisters, or even begin a doctoral thesis that leads to her somehow discovering nuclear fission and bombing the great nation out of existence. In postmodernism, creationism is possible, and there are really only a few limits to what could happen. You can play God.

Kanan Gill, as a stand-up guy, a stand-up storyteller and a stand-up comedian, seems naturally suited to such forms. Postmodernism is perhaps the most natural and free-flowing mode of narration. Existentialism is perhaps most natural to comedy. And all three are natural to Gill. Finding brilliant assimilation in his debut novel, Acts of God is a thrilling, frolicking, questioning, maddening and refreshingly unpredictable work of pop-postmodern science fiction. 

Following a very traumatised and an ambitious drunk, genius scientist Dr K., and the loony loopy detective P. Manjunath, who is the protagonist of K’s simulated world, the novel tracks two simultaneous and deviously intertwined narratives. 

You can tell that this is a plot that has been multiply written, rewritten and meticulously charted, for while it balances two separate but conjoined plotlines, it leaves behind no gaping narrative holes or perplexing confusions. It is also extremely unpredictable, undermining your best estimates within every 100 pages. This is something that we are glad for. With Gill’s imaginative scope often surpassing our smug predictions, the novel benefits from the provocative ambitions and far-seeing eye of its author and escapes most allegations of formulaic and trope-infested writing. There are, however, tropes. Many tropes. This is also something that we are glad for. Tropes are good, tropes are fun, tropes have survived because they work. The comforting trope of a bumbling detective who floats on a stream of wondrous fortune and coincidences. Or the trope of that substance-abusing wife-mourning genius scientist, when done well enough, can offer spaces for the profound to seep in. Tropes can be used to distinguish narrative boundaries. Like by creating a second plotline that can be distinctly demarcated for feeling more constructed than the first, more tropified and ‘written’. 

What Gill does, narratively, isn’t new.

Rick and Morty had an episode on a world within a box, a simulated reality, that is on the edge of creating their own world. This episode also explores a top-to-bottom Act-of-God effect, as well as the funny and often disturbing bottom-crawls-back-to-the-top threat. But the novel isn’t a winner for writing a ‘new’ story or generating concepts that are unheard of. It wins because of the miraculous way in which the story has been made wide enough to accommodate multiple genres, and thus, a full audience of readers. It takes one sentence to know that this is written by your favourite comic, it takes twenty pages to get used to the style, and it takes fifty pages to know for sure that you’re in for something truly worthwhile. This is a book for anyone looking for something light, something intense, something gripping and philosophical, or even something that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Filled with quizzes, games and a kindly narrative voice that has already finished the book before you’ve even started, Kanan Gill’s is a refreshing break from the tedium of plain-faced writing and monotonous storytelling, while also being an accessible gateway for those who shy away from thought-provoking sci-fi.

Pick up Kanan Gill’s Acts of God from any Kunzum store or WhatsApp +91.8800200280 to order. Buy the book(s) and the coffee’s on us.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Kanan Gill’s ‘Acts of God’ is Good. Genuinely Good.”

  1. I was always excited to read this book but after reading this review I’m more excited to explore the book as a medium for a new generational genre of disrupted experience.
    As a hesitant reader who often says “i read this somewhere” while confidently quoting tiktoks and reels, a distort narrative that breaks the fourth wall within its pages is exactly what a person with a limited attention span like me might need! Thank you for this review kunzum, u have really insightful writers 🙂

  2. Thoroughly excited to read the book 😈
    Fun review too, effortlessly creating the parallels to build enough excitement for the book.


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