Reality TV meets the space race in this story about a TV producer with a dream to make television sexy again in a not-too distant world where online experience is the new preferred entertainment.
Which puts the story on the back foot a little to begin with - the storyline is a bit laboured without a stronger reason for being. It's relatively enjoyable to read, although manages to test your endurance and interest at times.
Kind of a Philip K. Dick Lite experience - except that Dick would have taken the basic story to quite different places.
Certainly worth a look for anyone interested in modern science fiction. While lacking a bit of thought at times there are some interesting ideas in there.
This book has aged relatively well - apart from the derring do and sexual politics of the 60s looking more than a little dated. The story itself - of a misled people following a suicidal terrorist elite - fits today's environment as well as it fit the Cold War environment it was written for.
A colourful "What the?!?" experience
This is a book for those of us who think our family is weird and that our upbringing has made it hard for us to fit in. For anyone who feels disconnected and lacking in identity - meet Alan. Or is it Andrew, Adam or what? His family is not what you would call functional.
The story drifts in and out of two timelines (at one point 3) - there's the story of the present, where Alan arrives in town and tries to settle in, but is confronted by his past. Then we learn (piece by piece) of his past and his bizarre family. What Alan's kind is is never explained, but they are not human - instead a mythic-like species (with a plethora of quirks) desperately wanting to be normal.
Unfortunately it does seem to lose its way a little with the "free speech by WiFi" subplot (which was worthy of its own story - both plots lost out somewhat by being unnaturally married.) I guess this is kind of part of Doctorow's hobby horse - and given that his hobby horse allows me to download and read his books I can't exactly complain.
Doctorow is a great author. This may not be the most accessible of his novels for the Doctorow-virgin to pluck the cherry with (try Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom) but it is a worthy read for anyone prepared to enjoy a bizarre fantasy where angels live in abusive relationships and a mountain can father children.