cover image Total Oblivion, More or Less

Total Oblivion, More or Less

Alan DeNiro, . . Spectra, $15 (306pp) ISBN 978-0-553-59254-2

As this peculiar but entertaining first novel begins, geography and cosmology have shifted. Natural laws work unpredictably. The U.S. government has disappeared and plundering bands of Goths and Scythians roam the Midwest. Sea serpents close the shipping lanes, and oil companies convert their tankers into slave ships that cruise the Mississippi. Clear-eyed, tough-minded teen Macy Palmer flees St. Paul with her family for the illusory safety of an island in the Gulf of Mexico. As they travel through a wavering postapocalyptic landscape, her relatives undergo upsetting personal metamorphoses. DeNiro has attracted attention for his short fiction (especially the Small Beer Press collection Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead ), and this longer story's energy ebbs a bit as Macy gets some of the oddness under control. Nonetheless, it's an impressive debut from a promising writer. (Dec.)