cover image All That Follows

All That Follows

Jim Crace, . . Doubleday, $24.95 (223pp) ISBN 978-0-385-52076-8

Leonard Lessing, the British protagonist of Crace's surprisingly bad 10th novel (after The Pesthouse ), has Walter Mitty–like dreams of being a revolutionary that are invariably short-circuited by his fear of making a disturbance. In 2006, Leonard, while in Austin, Tex., to reconnect with ex-flame Nadia, is bullied into assuming the role of activist by Maxie, the founder of Snipers Without Bullets, who is living with Nadia and who has gotten her pregnant. Though Maxie appalls Leonard, he nevertheless halfheartedly takes part in an “action” against Laura Bush that leads to Nadia's arrest and her daughter, Lucy, being born in prison. Eighteen years later, Leonard sees a news story about Maxie, who has taken a British family hostage. While gawking at the proceedings, Leonard runs into Lucy and gets drawn, once again, into a cockeyed scheme that begins Leonard's unlikely reunion with Nadia and a partial, ironic fulfillment of his dream of being an iconic radical. Unfortunately, Crace's novel is held hostage by the listlessness that emanates from chickenhearted Leonard and the embarrassing stereotypes that clutter many of the scenes, especially those set in Texas. This is a feeble effort for a novelist of Crace's stature. (Apr.)