cover image The Five Books of (Robert) Moses

The Five Books of (Robert) Moses

Arthur Nersesian. Akashic, $44.95 (1,510p) ISBN 978-1-61775-499-9

Nersesian (Mesopotamia) delivers a sprawling, engrossing Pentateuch of an alternate New York City from 1980 to the present, a vibrant, violent world that bubbles with political intrigue and is controlled by gangs. A terrorist attack has rendered New York uninhabitable; by 1980, it has been reestablished in Nevada and is known more familiarly as Rescue City. The Piggers control the Bronx and Queens, the Crappers Manhattan and Brooklyn. Each book has a different New York borough in its title. At the center of the epic is Ulysses “Uli” Sarkisian, an amnesiac FBI agent who lands in Queens on Election Day in 1980 with a mission he vaguely remembers. On a bus, Uli meets Mallory, who travels with a baby kangaroo. She eventually becomes mayor, and their lives cross frequently over the five books. In the second book, Nersesian jumps back in time for the story of Paul Moses, elder brother of esteemed Robert, and his family. Paul’s lesbian daughter, Bea, enters politics while Uli’s sister, Karen, joins SDS in 1965. Many celebrities of the 1960s and ’70s appear as minor characters, including Candy Darling, Jackie Curtis, and other members of Andy Warhol’s Factory, and much of the novel’s resonance (and fun) comes from how each has been reimagined. Dozens of black-and-white illustrations by Lisa Archigian playfully enhance the narrative. Nersesian’s binge-worthy odyssey is a singularly wild ride. (July)