• Red Pill

  • A Novel
  • By: Hari Kunzru
  • Narrated by: Hari Kunzru
  • Length: 8 hrs and 44 mins
  • 4.1 out of 5 stars (207 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

One of the New York Times' 100 Notable Books of 2020

One of NPR's Best Books of 2020

One of the A.V. Club's 15 Favorite Books of 2020

From the widely acclaimed author of White Tears, a bold new novel about searching for order in a world that frames madness as truth.

After receiving a prestigious writing fellowship in Germany, the narrator of Red Pill arrives in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee and struggles to accomplish anything at all. Instead of working on the book he has proposed to write, he takes long walks and binge-watches Blue Lives - a violent cop show that becomes weirdly compelling in its bleak, Darwinian view of life - and soon begins to wonder if his writing has any value at all. 

Wannsee is a place full of ghosts: Across the lake, the narrator can see the villa where the Nazis planned the Final Solution, and in his walks he passes the grave of the Romantic writer Heinrich von Kleist, who killed himself after deciding that "no happiness was possible here on earth". When some friends drag him to a party where he meets Anton, the creator of Blue Lives, the narrator begins to believe that the two of them are involved in a cosmic battle and that Anton is "red-pilling" his viewers - turning them toward an ugly, alt-rightish worldview - ultimately forcing the narrator to wonder if he is losing his mind.

©2020 Hari Kunzru (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Haunting and timely ... Kunzru is not the first to write about the free-floating dread and creeping paranoia brought on by the accelerated technologies and fluid social structures of modern life, but his innovation lies in having grafted a taut psychological thriller onto an old-fashioned systems novel of the sort Don DeLillo or Thomas Pynchon used to write. The effect is dizzying, and also delightful, as he riffs on everything from the early-nineteenth-century German writer Heinrich von Kleist to surveillance culture to the Counter-Enlightenment to the history of schnitzel, while somehow still clocking in at under three hundred pages.” (Jenny Offill, The New York Review of Books)

“Razor-sharp ... as an allegory about how well-meaning liberals have been blindsided by pseudo-intellectual bigots with substantial platforms, it’s bleak but compelling ... ‘Kafkaesque’ is an overused term, but it’s an apt one for this dark tale of fear and injustice.” (Kirkus starred)

“Dazzling ... Kunzru has created a complex, challenging, and bold story about a world gone amok..." (Booklist starred)

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What listeners say about Red Pill

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Paranoia justified

Completely by coincidence (?) I finished this book today, November 5th, right before Biden wins the election. What an odd book from one of my favorite authors. The story is all over the place and at times exasperating, but I suppose it's more about the feeling of existential dread that this whole country (at least 51% percent of it anyway) has been living through the past 4 years, and in that way, I found the whole book cathartic, parts of it an engrossing read, and parts of it confusing and overly intellectual. As usual for this author's works, I could never guess the plot or see what was coming next, which I find gratifying, and the author's reading was superb.

18 people found this helpful

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I think this might be one of my new favorite books

I am in awe of this author and want to read everything he has ever written. Just an incredible and ultra-timely book. Cannot recommend enough. Also, I usually hate when authors read their own work, but Hari is a fantastic reader.

7 people found this helpful

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juvenile

One of the most boring, tepid, amateurish protagonists I have encountered. His endless self- spelunking and incomprehensible gibberish is just intolerable. After endless hours of foreplay there was no payoff. I was hoping he would take a dive into the cold North Sea and spare us his ego-diving. God help us all if he is the avatar of the liberal left, weak,"self-indulgent" and, dare I say it in a world where the word has lost all value, NARCISSISTIC. He leaves his wife and child to "find himself" only to be crushed by a MAGA personified. A very depressing book

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political fiction for the now.

wonderful listen and potent for our times! infuriating, thought provoking and honest. a reflection on authoritarianism and where/how it leaves room from the rest of us.

4 people found this helpful

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A strange book that I wanted to put down, but couldn’t.

A strange, oddly depressing book. I could never quite see where it was headed, but once into it I just couldn’t put it down.

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If you like interiority

A writer writes about a disillusioned writer falling apart. Huge volumes of interior dialog e

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Best Novel of 2020!

Red Pill is a timely, beautiful, terrifying novel which captures our present moment perfectly. I loved White Tears, and this book managed to exceed my expectations. Highly recommended!

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This is the worst book I’ve ever downloaded

How do I get my credit back?

There is no plot, it’s the eloquent rambling of someone having a mental crisis.

1 person found this helpful

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Red Pill by Hari Kunzru

This is the story of a man, an author, who goes to a 3-month retreat in Berlin to rekindle his writing spark. He struggles at times, to find inspiration from his surroundings and fellow writers, never quite fitting in, while discovering the undercurrents of weirdness that course through the center he is visiting. But in the end what he finds is even more terrifying than he could have imagined, coming in the form of his own Moriarty, somewhat of a Peter Tiel type with ideas on changing the world. The battle may just cost him his mind.

I found the material in this book to be timely and as such, thought-provoking. That said, the ending was a bit disappointing in its resolution.

Hari Kunzru is a master of his material, and does a great job reading his words as they were meant to be heard.

I found this to be a good read, warts and all.

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To Sum Our Post Post Modern Malaise

An expertly drawn repair manual for post modern malaise.
A surprisingly heartwarming human search for solid footing in our new world order.
Narcissist autocrats thrive whilst the facade of comfortable existence goes to Hell in a hand-basket.

Kunzru outlines a hauntingly hollow paint-by-number menagerie, and then colors that fascist kitten in the corner with a bright red crayon.

Whether one chooses the red pill or not — should predict one’s suffering, anxiety, even strategy.

Red Pill is succinct, elegant, and forceful — Less concerned with why, or how, but with historic precedence, and the pieces & connections which may remain.

“Red Pill” elegantly tugs the threads of Anthony Burgess’s dystopian masterpiece “A Clockwork Orange”. Poignant perhaps, if you too find yourself screaming into the void, where those who still care quietly languish.