Reviews

Kapitoil by Teddy Wayne

scott98m's review

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emotional funny medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

3.5

sophronisba's review against another edition

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5.0

Wow. I loved this book because the character and voice of Karim are pitch-perfect. And Wayne nailed the ending. I'm very, very impressed, and I will definitely be looking for anything Wayne writes in the future.

kbyanyname's review against another edition

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4.0

I picked this up because a blogger whose taste in books I respect recommended it. Karim may not be my new favorite character in recent reading, but I'm glad to have read his struggle.

Karim's voice is unique and interesting, as an outsider to America and life, but an insider on programming and business. He knows his strengths and weaknesses to a fault, and we follow his story during a period of a few months at the end of 1999, when he is revolutionizing the oil futures market by writing a program that predicts prices based on bad news. He is intelligent and moreover torn between his past and a more compromised future.

Wayne nails this character really well (which probably stems from his time spent editing foreign resumes), and there's a part of me that really loves decoding his sentences to find the meaning hidden in what shared meaning Karim gives our language. Some of the funnier parts of the book came from mixed definitions and connotations, and the phrases that Karim needs to have explained. Thankfully, Karim has done his studying before moving to America, so we're not left with "Perfect Strangers," but it leaves me perplexed about some of the words and phrases that he just does not know or seem to get the hang of. I get why he doesn't get rid of some of his language because no one would bother to correct him or give him strange looks. Keeping "stimulated" for "excited," however, just grated on me as one word that someone would probably fix pretty quickly, given usage and connotation. I can't imagine that Karim isn't assiduous enough to figure some of these things out, even if it adds to the humor overall. I feel like this is something that an editor should've refined.

In fact, my biggest problems with the book are more about how it was edited and produced, moreso than the actual content and writing. I know this is his first novel, but the back cover reads like some of the resumes Wayne must've edited, with references to his schooling rather than, say, who he is as a person. Shouldn't I want to read his book because the concept and ideas hook me in and not because of who trained him? I think that was supposed to be fixed through the extended author interview and "favorite books" list in the appendix, but really? If I want to find out more about an author, I'm fully capable of searching the Internet. The "Troubleshooting Guide" in the back is tacked on and not even a joke representative of the rest of the book. Wayne is clearly a funny, intelligent guy from the writing between these griefs, and I have no idea why his editors allowed his novel to come off looking and sounding as though it belongs on the YA lit shelf.

Also in desperate need to be eliminated are the many, many pop culture references. More than once, Karim comes in contact with media, as we are so frequently inundated with in America, but rather than just encountering them, I feel like Wayne piggybacks on some concepts and even does some post-modern metacriticism through Karim on some of the Steinbeck referenced. The music referenced gets some similar treatment, though not in the same vein. Karim does grow and change because of these encounters, but if the character isn't really strong enough to stand on its own without reminding us of other, more memorable characters, there's a problem there. Nothing should make me remember The Grapes of Wrath and put your book down to read that again. I feel like an editor should have at least noted that in the margins.

All that said, Wayne is quick-witted and knows how to turn a phrase. He has a ridiculous amount of control of a sentence, and I'm hoping to see that evolve into a more refined work in his next novel. I'm glad Karim was such an interesting compromising character, someone who did end up growing and changing, becoming more human as he both rejected and embraced his past. Some phrases from the last few entries will stick with me for a while, and his voice definitely will.

Wayne kept his story light while discussing some moderately heavy ideas, an interesting route that kept the whole thing from feeling too melodramatic, and, well, first-novel-ish. I'll be glad to see where he goes from here, and hopefully we won't need a resume to convince us to read his next book.

drewsof's review against another edition

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5.0

I burned through this in a day - not because I wanted to or was bored or anything like that... but it just zipped by without me even noticing. It's a simple joy of a book: intelligent, well-written, funny, moving, and ultimately just a simple novel. Sometimes we need that. It doesn't try to do anything more than be a simple novel of a time before we are the way we are now... and as a result, it makes you reflect, just for a moment, on just that: the way we are now. Mr. Wayne is a talent to watch and I was pleasantly surprised by just how much I really enjoyed reading this book.

More thoughts on the content at RB: http://wp.me/sGVzJ-kapitoil

sariggs's review against another edition

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2.0

This book carries much the same sentiment as "The Reluctant Fundimentalist". The chief differences seem to be that this is pre-9/11 and the other is pre- and post-9/11. If I hadn't read this one second, I'd rate it higher.

ruthiella's review against another edition

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4.0

I didn’t love The Love Song of Johnny Valentine by Wayne and I approached this book, his debut, with some trepidation…and I really LIKED it! This is a fish-out-of-water story featuring Kamil, a young Quatari programmer who comes to New York City to work on the Y2K project of a huge, U.S. multinational financial institution. When Kamil invents a program to predict the fluctuations of oil prices, his dreams are all about to come true, if he can navigate the pitfalls of American greed and capitalism. The story goes pretty much where one expects it to go, it is sort of a twist on a fairy tale, but told realistically – no magic realism here. Kamil is utterly adorable. He is nerdy yet kind and his misunderstandings about American culture are often very funny.

bthny's review

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5.0

I really, really liked this book. I had some doubts about it at first, mainly centered around a white author's use of a Middle Eastern voice, but the book didn't go in the direction I expected at all. One of the better novels I've read in a while.

sheemsinbk's review against another edition

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4.0

This is not a book I would normally pick up on my own but the author happens to be a friend of a friend. It took me a few chapters to get into it but I thought it was funny, well written and smart. It's probably not for everyone but I really enjoyed the writing and the very charming characters.

rachel_b_824's review against another edition

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4.0

A computer programmer comes to America from Qatar to work on solving the Y2K bug for a major investment firm, and he ends up writing a program that times purchases of oil futures based on acts of violence in the Middle East. Ethical questions ensue. Surprisingly funny and sweet.

nicka's review

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4.0

(some spoilers)

This book was recommended to me by a friend (thanks abby!) who is friends with the author. She described it as 'the pre-9/11 novel, capturing the angst and anxiety of Y2K global computer failings and the financial bubble burst'. And I don't disagree with her there, but the way I'd describe it... 'come for a y2k snapshot, stay for the human to human connection of two disparate people from two disparate backgrounds'. Yea, won't see that as a tagline...anywhere.

Wayne's had his share of praise for development of the protagonist Karim Issar, a talented Qatr-born computer programmer/financial stock predictor/employee of a giant global investor/other professional job titles that I don't fully grasp. Basically, he writes computer programs using complex algorithms to predict oil futures and stock market data.

Wayne has said he did not want to write a 9/11 novel and while I can appreciate that, there are some aspects of this novel that would have benefitted from further development. For example, Karim's uncomfortable assimilation from a life in Qatr to a New York stock trader's jet set lifestyle is illustrated with conversations with his father, still in Qatr, a traditionalist Muslim. They speak of bombings and U.S. interference of the region. I think if this was explored a little further, it would have better 'shown' a growing sense of distrust of the American people. These conversations and this aspect of the story seemed almost an afterthought, not wanting to delve too deeply into a controversial subject, not really knowing how to treat it. And I see where Wayne may have wanted to hold back there, but I found myself wanting more.

Karim made a really interesting protagonist, his plight and so forth. But while Wayne went to great lengths to hilight the 'Karim-esque', sometimes Karim's perfect speech and grammar and grasp on complex mathematics made the Karim-esque seemed robotic-esque. His diction especially. But again, there's a challenge there to give a character who studies perfect English to better assimilate finding himself in a sea of business jargon and slang.

The best aspect for me is the story of Rebecca, a New York typical 20 something experiencing ennui and self-doubt. Takes Zoloft, has a bad relationship with her father. I don't want to say 'first world problems' but very much different from Karim. Their romantic connection develops quite naturally and Wayne does well to bring them together in a sort of clumsy way you'd expect of two people with their respective backgrounds. This was my favorite part; how two people with nothing in common clumsily found their way into each others arms.