In Jonathan Lethem's wryly funny novel, we meet a young man named Chaos, who's living in a movie theater in post-apocalyptic Wyoming, drinking alcohol, and eating food out of cans.
It's an unusual and at times unbearable existence, but Chaos soon discovers that his post-nuclear reality may have no connection to the truth. So he takes to the road with a girl named Melinda in order to find answers. As the pair travels through the United States they find that, while each town has been affected differently by the mysterious source of the apocalypse, none of the people they meet can fill in their incomplete memories or answer their questions. Gradually, figures from Chaos's past, including some who appear only under the influence of intravenously administered drugs, make Chaos remember some of his forgotten life as a man named Moon.
Lethem's post-apocalyptic vision reflects American culture as if in a funhouse mirror in this strong follow-up to Gun, with Occasional Music. Televangelists have become actual robots, dog food is the cuisine of choice and the soap operas star government figures--all making for a confusing world for Everett, aka Chaos, who lives in a movie-projection room in Wyoming, drinking a liquor ``that amounted to rubbing alcohol.'' Fleeing his projection booth with Melinda, who's ``covered with fine, silky hair from head to foot,'' Chaos discovers that he is a ``dreamer,'' one whose dreams can remake reality. As Chaos and Melinda travel through the U.S., they find that, while each town has been affected differently by the mysterious source of the apocalypse, none can fill in their incomplete memories or answer their questions. Alighting in Vacaville, where everything is determined by ``luck tests,'' Chaos and Melinda settle into family life with a woman and her two children. But figures from his past, including some who appear only under the influence of intravenously administered drugs, draw Chaos into discovering that past--and into making more active use of his dream powers. The author draws each stop on Chaos's journey with care, including a supremely decadent San Francisco and a Los Angeles overrun with aliens, bringing to life all the horror and confusion inherent in his future world. At its heart, this novel remains a simple story--the search for identity, the search for family--but Lethem uses it successfully as a springboard for both a commentary on American culture and a convincing portrait of his main character. Author tour.