At first, Red Pill resembles the kind of intellectual comedy of manners that has become familiar in contemporary American fiction in recent years...For some writers, the gently comic potential of this set-up would be enough. But Kunzru is too ambitious to be satisfied by academic farce ... What [Hannah] Arendt actually said was: 'everything that lives . . . emerges from darkness and, however strong its natural tendency to thrust itself into the light, it nevertheless needs the security of darkness to grow at all.' This deeply intelligent and artfully constructed novel reminds us that this is true of human relationships and societies alike.
Kunzru is wise to keep the narrative both rooted in the real world and mostly divorced from the current moment more specifically. By doing so, he’s able to isolate the behaviors inherent to the online culture wars—the baiting, the debating, the veils of humor—and view them through a historical lens ... But Kunzru’s story isn’t strictly a critique. Anybody who’s struggled with shitposting’s influence on modern discourse, the layered irony and perpetual smirk, will identify with the narrator ... He worries he’s the butt of a joke he doesn’t understand. He obsesses over what he claims to hate. He wants life to be like a poem, despite all evidence to the contrary. Kunzru finds the humor and humanity in it all, but even as the story spirals into well-earned hysteria, he never downplays the severity of the mental derangement unfolding on both sides of the aisle in a post-truth era, nor the ways each can intersect in the realm of conspiracy.
... the Gen X Midlife-Crisis Novel in its purest form ... a funny and suspenseful novel, dense with ideas, deliciously plotted, and generous with its satirical acid. Of the Gen X Midlife-Crisis Novels, it has the sharpest cultural comedy ... In White Tears the schism between successive styles—from realism to magic realism—had a clear moral force. It’s hard to say the same about the conclusion of Red Pill, which dissipates some of the tension the book has gathered along the way, though in a manner that remains true to the nature of its shiftless critic narrator’s flimsy personality ... we know that the narrator’s interpretations of the world aren’t entirely reliable. Yet there is an undeniable logic to the unsatisfying ending of this otherwise very satisfying novel. The narrator’s red-pilling, his recognition of the world’s previously hidden fascist dark side, has allowed him to shed his vestigial Gen X cynicism and become a good neoliberal.