Saturday, November 17, 2007

07.12 Amnesia Moon by Jonathan Lethem


Amnesia Moon by Jonathan Lethem
Tor, Trade, 247 p.

This is my first Lethem novel and of course I picked it up because it was supposed to be placed in a post-apocalyptic setting. I am starting to see more and more of these modern fiction books that are ostensibly using the P-A setting but present themselves as contemporary fiction not associated with the science fiction 'ghetto'. (see: this book, McCarthy's The Road, Fiskadoro by Denis Johnson).

So, Amnesia Moon is set in an America unlike anything you have ever seen. The novel begins in a post-nuclear Wyoming where Chaos, the protagonist, lives in the projection booth of a suburban mall multiplex. He seems demented and self-destructive as we find that he has trouble sleeping because of crazed dreams. It turns out that his dreams have the power to alter realities but there is another man in the town with the same power. This guy, Kellogg, is something of an overlord; distributing food to the emaciated mutants and other residents.

Eventually Chaos flees the town with a fur covered woman in tow and the novel becomes more of a road story. Apparently this book originated from a number of short stories that the author had unpublished and he strung them together for a novel.

Chaos encounters a series of strange towns - one shrouded in green fog, another where government employees are TV celebrities - all in his quest to find out who he really is and what happened before the 'Break' (nuclear war?). There a many striking similarities to the books of Philip K. Dick in this novel as other reviewers have pointed out. Some are used quite skillfully while others seem more forced.

I have to say that I don't think I can recommend this novel to my readers. There were some interesting ideas and some of the writing was quite powerful, however, the story, for me, held no inherent interest. I realize that I am something of a traditionalist for a coherent plotline but I just felt that perhaps this book would have been better off as a set of short stories.

1 comment:

beemused said...

never heard of this lethem book before, so nice find. though won't bother to put this in my must-read list since you didn't seem too impressed by it!