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WHO IS ELIJAH CLEARFATHER?
Futuristic bioweapon or good old-fashioned messiah? Reincarnated ex-porn star or mutant information-age revolutionary? The man who awakens in New York City’s Central Park with no memory of his identity and the enigmatic message FATHER FORGIVE THEM F carved into the flesh of his back may be all of these things and more.
Taken in (and then expelled) by a group of freedom fighters battling the soul-deadening Vitessa Cultporation, Clearfather is a stranger in an even stranger land. Following tantalizing clues that point to the gnomic Stinky Wiggler, and pursued by murderous Vitessa agents, Clearfather embarks on a surreal odyssey of self-discovery across an America that resembles a vast amusement park designed by some unholy trinity of Walt Disney, Hunter S. Thompson, and Hieronymus Bosch.
Accompanying Clearfather is an unforgettable cast of characters–including Aretha Nightingale, an ex-football-playing drag queen; Dooley Duck and Ubba Dubba, hologram cartoon characters sprung outrageously to life; and the ethereally beautiful Kokomo, whose past is as much a mystery as Clearfather’s own.
By turns hilarious and deeply moving, a savage, fiercely intelligent satire that is also a page-turning adventure and a transcendent love story, Zanesville marks the arrival of a brilliant new voice in fiction.
Saknussemm's debut novel describes the picaresque wanderings of a Zelig-like character through a post-apocalyptic America where psychotropic drug dependency and bodily mutilation/alteration are the order of the day. The protagonist, Clearfather, awakens as a middle-aged man in a future Central Park, with vague childhood memories and an outsize member. He makes his way through an America in which the divide between public and private is so nonexistent that the U.S. government itself is privatized, outsourced to the monolithic drug manufacturer, Vitessa Cultporation. Searching for his identity and an explanation of the current state of the barely unified union, Clearfather encounters deposed sex-obsessed drug-addicted corporate scions, lesbian motorcycle gangs, gay heavyweights and possibly the creator of the universe, at least in its current state. Saknussemm creates a self-contained, sci-fi world where celebrity worship is pervasive and holographic mascots, "eidolons," stand in as shills for everything from fast-food haggis to "Childrite nurturing centers." Tedious action sequences between warring factions and an autistic attention to authorial eschatology make this a long trudge. But it is just a slight step into the imaginative ether to see how many of the novel's obsessions are endgame imaginings of current societal problems.