A Hollywood novel of a very different kind by the author of The Player: A timely and “darkly satirical” dystopian thriller (The San Francisco Chronicle).
Michael Tolkin is known as a master chronicler of show business culture. Now, in his new novel, the H LYW OD sign presides over a city devastated by a weaponized microbe that’s been accidentally spread around the globe, deleting human identity.
In post-NK3 Los Angeles, a sixty-foot fence surrounds the hills where the rich used to live, but the mansions have been taken over by those with the only power that matters: the power of memory. Life for those inside the Fence, ruled over by the new aristocracy known as the Verified, is a perpetual party. Outside the Fence, downtown, the Verified use an invented mythology to keep control over the mindless and nameless. In deliciously dark prose, Tolkin winds a noose-like plot around a melee of despots, prophets, and rebels as they struggle for command and survival in a town that still manages to exert a magnetic force, even as a ruined husk.
“Intricate and cleverly constructed.”—The New Yorker
“Tolkin creates memorable images and searing moments and peppers the text with sly, dark humor, all while raising provocative social and political issues…NK3 is nightmare and satire, thriller and warning. Crafted by a master storyteller, it is a haunting parable about civilization marching forward, while forgetting what it leaves behind.”—Los Angeles Review of Books
“Remind[s] one of how easily people are turned into commodities, how slippery the grip on identity can be, how there’s always someone ready to set themself up as the savior of civilization.”—The San Francisco Chronicle
Tolkin's new novel takes place in L.A., but it's a far cry from the city of his famous Hollywood satire, The Player. This L.A., like the rest of the world, has been exposed to a North Korean bio-agent, NK3, whose effect is to erase memory. Now, four years after the city's collapse, those with restored memory live in the remains of a gated community in the hills, dubbed Center Camp, a giant fence protecting it from the memory-less Drifters and Shamblers who inhabit the city's dead zones. Among the survivors are Eckmann, who lives at the airport and guards the last operable jet aircraft; June Moulton, a former movie executive who is in charge of creating new myths to control the Drifters; influential pop superstar Shannon Squier; and Hopper, a Drifter who follows an inner voice directing him to Center Camp to locate his missing wife. All these characters, and many others, meet their fate in a scene echoing the Hollywood riot that ends Nathanael West's The Day of the Locust. Studded with obscure pop culture references (Toby Tyler, Spig Wead), the novel is replete with dialogue that has the effect of the classic "Who's on First?" routine, but with results more chilling than comic. In his novels and screenplays, Tolkin has always exhibited a downbeat view of humanity, which is reinforced here in his bleak vision of the apocalypse, surely the most idiosyncratic since Ben Marcus's The Flame Alphabet.