It's hard to find a single drop of oil in "Kapitoil", but this doesn't mean you shouldn't read this novel.
Yes, I'm talking to you bankers, speculators, brokers, financial advisers, oligarchs, sheiks, Russian PMs and Iranian presidents, spin doctors, politicians, entrepreneurs, capitalists and anti-capitalists, environmentalists, exploited and exploiters of this world.
I repeat: this book doesn't definitely smell of crude oil. No oil drums involved. No Brent Crude classification diagrams. No gas wells around. No black petroleum stains as bookmarks.
I'm sorry Vladimir and Mahmoud.
Al? Haven't you heard me? There's nothing for you here.
And yet, Teddy Wayne's first novel is a pretty good one.
Let's take the protagonist, Karim from Qatar (please pronounce it Cutter). Wayne made him an amazing character with a distinctive personality and a wonderful vocabulary, a geek with a heart, a wizard with a soul.
Whereas contemporary authors like Mohsin Hamid or even Jonathan Safran Foer (yes!) had a similar extended use of monologue for their main characters, but ended up with a boring and unrealistic result, Wayne learned the lesson in a better way. Karim never annoys me. And I am able to understand his behavior, his peculiar logic, the way his moral probity and curiosity are both being challenged by New York City in A.D 1999.
Do you remember all that fear for something called the Millennium Bug?
That's it. Teddy Wayne did and does and he decided to backdate a novel which he could have easily tried to set up on 2010-2011 ten years earlier when NYC was unbroken: I found it an interesting choice.
The cast of American characters surrounding Karim - a Qatariman in New York as Sting would put it - is chosen very well and highlights the story in a perfect and poignant way. Less appropriated are the two characters left behind in Doha, Karim's father and sister but Mr Wayne mostly keeps them hanging at the telephone.
Surprisingly enough, I would label "Kapitoil" as a "romantic novel" if any label may be needed.
Because at the end of the day it's Karim sentimental involvement for a workmate (how obvious! You would say. Well. perhaps. But it works) the main plot here.
Yes, of course, there is a sharp criticism to the lack of morality of a certain top financial world caught before 9/11 and well before the crack of Lehman bros and all that came after. And there is also some math every now and then, but not the dry jargon you would expect in the mouth of a banker and a self-taught software engineer.
Quoting Karim, he is very much "the cream of the cream" of a novel written with a clever and well-trained hand. Not a book to worship or one of the most brilliant novels of the last years, but quite certainly a smart, compelling and entertaining reading. And - ok, Al! I will tell them - this novel doesn't pollute the environment like all hydrocarbons do. Well done, Wayne! Don't walk away from this path.