cover image The Familiar, Vol. 1: One Rainy Day in May

The Familiar, Vol. 1: One Rainy Day in May

Mark Z. Danielewski. Pantheon, $24 (880p) ISBN 978-0-375-71494-8

Set mostly in the L.A. area during a rainy day in May, our first heroine in this metanarrative of typographical trickery is the precocious 12-year-old Xanther, who embarks, with her stepfather, Anwar, on a trip to get a dog—instead, they find a kitten dying in the rain and Xanther’s desperate attempts to save it are intercut with unspooling story fragments. There’s Anwar’s past as developer of a mysterious game engine, his vanished partner Mefisto, and copious hints that reality itself might be a dream or program. Other story lines include the cyberpunk adventures of two programmers in Marfa, Tex., on the run from their own creation; a dogfighter named Victor on the verge of encountering a miracle; a repentant criminal in Singapore; an ace detective named Oz—and so forth. The narratives pile on (each with its own signature font), though none of them of contain any real significance or a three-dimensional character. Danielewski’s (House of Leaves) interest is clearly not in storytelling, but in faux profundity; hence the book’s multitude of wise-sounding quotations, random punctuation, fake code, blank pages, cheap pop-cultural citations, and The Matrix–aping techno-clichés make for familiar reading indeed. (May)