Cyborg imaginings mix with romance and transformation in this complex first novel where even the reader has a role to play. The narrator works as a compositor, a new kind of storyteller, but she is designing a different future for herself. Once a wife and mother, now she longs to escape from the world of human emotion into the calm and pain-free life of a cyborg. As her surgeries move towards closure, her story characters Shirley and Rosa have other agendas, leading to an unexpected outcome.
Thomas's short but ambitious first novel dispenses with traditional narrative structure to tell two related stories, juxtaposing science fiction and a mainstream tale of women dealing with the crises of middle age. Told in the second person, the science fiction story serves as a frame. In it, a bereaved woman works as a ``compositor'' of virtual reality fantasies while she slowly replaces all her body parts with cybernetic prostheses. Meanwhile, Shirley and Rosa--who appear to be characters in the compositor's current project--encounter pains similar to those of the compositor and eventually drift into a lesbian affair. Thomas splices in passages from the writings of Marvin Minsky and Douglas Hofstadter as well as ``infodumps'' discussing the interface between humans and machines (``Machine Religion,'' ``Machine as Friend''). Individually, the strands of the plot work well--in one particularly good scene, the compositor confronts two door-to-door evangelists with her transformed body, asking what place a cyborg has in God's plan. Little synergy develops between the story lines, nor does Thomas explore many of the issues she raises. Nevertheless, her limpid prose illumines many poignant moments, and her brave experiments with form and subject ultimately reward the reader.