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Review: Privilege – Bharat Krishna

Privilege - Bharat Krishna

Genre: Sci-Fi, Alternate World

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About The Book

In this epic saga about privilege and power, Rakshan Baliga will have to choose between the American Dream…and his own.

New York’s drug problem is Rakshan’s solution. Getting his hands on a super drug called WP could earn him glory, power, and a chance to win back his ex. But stealing it from the Top 1% is costly, and if Rakshan isn’t careful he’ll pay with his life.

Discover how Rakshan’s journey sets off a chain of events that changes his city, his country…and the world. This OwnVoices political thriller is perfect for fans of Ocean’s 11 and House of Cards.

The Review

I met Bharat through the SFWA indie authors committee, and picked up the first book in his trilogy – Privilege – to read.

It’s social sci-fi, taking place in approximately the present day, with one key difference (and I don’t think this is too much of a spoiler, since it’s evident early on). While the protagonists in the book are mostly Indian, their world is predominantly run by white people, in large part because a drug called WP (read White Privilege) gives them superior cognitive and physical abilities.

The story is an allegory, of course, for the current state of things in our world and especially in the USA. The drug was discovered during the gold rush years, and has helped white folks keep the upper hand for almost two centuries. Change is in the air, though, as people of color increasingly find ways around the prohibitions against owning and using WP, and there’s a movement in congress to finally officially legalize its use by people of color.

Our hero, Rakshan, loses his job and his girlfriend in the same week, the former because his boss Aditya blames him for the loss of a potential new client, and the latter because… well, there are reasons. Rakshan gathers his crew and starts plotting to take down Aditya, and to secure a little WP for himself in pursuit of righting the wrongs the world has perpetrated against him.

I enjoyed the whole idea of white privilege made into a solid, physical thing (I was going to say “made real”, but of course it already is). I did wish it wasn’t quite so literal – it would have been cool if I’d had an “aha” moment much farther into the book when I put two and two together.

But it’s great to see more sci-fi that does not take the Western/White POV, and although many of the protagonists are quite westernized themselves, there are many nods to the Indian culture and family that help balance it out.

From the outside, it was also a bit of an eye opener for me, a (gay) white American, to see how the characters (and by extension the author?) feel about our culture. I related to it in terms of being a gay man, and wanting in on something that you’re repeatedly told is not for you. My experiences aren’t the same as those of people of color, but Krishnan taps into something universal here – the combined adoration for and loathing of the American Dream.

A fascinating reworking of our culture today, a mirror turned on ourselves that doesn’t show the most flattering image, but still offers hope for change.

The Reviewer

Scott is the founder of Queer Sci Fi, and a fantasy and sci fi writer in his own right, with more than 30 published short stories, novellas and novels to his credit, including two trilogies.  

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