Set in 1999 against a backdrop of race riots, well-armed zealots, discount euthanasia, and sexual worship, Zeitgeist is a searing portrait of a nation facing Armageddon.
A cautionary tale of Generation Z millenarianism, this intriguing first novel follows the cross-country travails of a ragtag assortment of unlikely desperadoes: a petit bourgeois black-nationalist hacker; a Welshman starving for media attention; a lesbian martial arts expert on the lam from her manipulative mother; the shell-shocked victim of a gang bang; and a schizophrenic Catholic priest turned armed robber. They come together by chance and, despite their faxed-in bomb threats, dustups in hayseed canteens and occasional chopper-jacking, are a generally decent lot. How can they be expected to know that their innocent actions will result in race riots, the suspension of the Bill of Rights and the coming of an avenging angel of the Lord? Interspersed throughout the narrative are the memoirs of the story's "author," one Dr. Venus Wicked, failed novelist and successful prostitute. Wiggins is a lucid writer with a true gift for puns, but he lets the story get away from him. The violent ending has some endearing cartoonish elements (a militia made up of Las Vegas showgirls, for instance), but it more often settles for an unpleasant mix of sentimentality and gristle. The novel's "Nabokovian intent," as Venus puts it, is also a disappointment, turning out to be, as Dr. Wicked herself might say, way obvious.