In this accomplished new novel that confirms the promise of Nunn's first book, Tapping the Source, he heat of the Mojave Desert not only curls the hairs on a driver's arm; it also makes the few isolated settlements tremendously lonely, the inhabitants rambunctious and vulgar, and faith a cross between beliefs that began long ago in another desert halfway across the world and kooky ideas about extraterrestrials as gods. Into this desert comes Obadiah Wheeler, a preacher trying to escape the Vietnam draft, who has been asked to lead a group of missionaries into this previously unassigned territory in barren Nevada. A man of shaky principles, he is separated from the sect elder and comes upon a ramshackle museum built around a manufactured space oddity. He encounters the trampy half-sister of the museum operator with whom he goes wandering among the desolate outposts while considering mysteries whose solution may yield either great truths or nonsense. Nunn writes with a keen portentousness about the warped people in this wasteland, creating what might be described as a western gothic. His examination of cultish thought is respectful, intriguing and funny, in a narrative that never loses dramatic momentum. (June 19).