cover image A Mask for the General

A Mask for the General

Lisa Goldstein. Bantam Books, $14.95 (201pp) ISBN 978-0-553-05239-8

The General took over leadership of the United States at the time of the Collapse. In 2021, food is still rationed, movement within the country is curtailed and political strictures are so tight that rehabilitation centers are burgeoning. In California, a group of dissidents has collected in tribes, adopting Indian animism customs, one of which involves discovering their animal spirits and wearing identifying masks. Seventeen-year-old Mary has moved from Stockton to Berkeley in search of a maskmaker to tell her what animal she is and to make her a mask. Shortly after arriving she meets the famed Layla and her group of friends, all of whom are subversive in different ways and to different degrees. Mary is honored when Layla wants to take her on as her apprentice but, because she is an epileptic, fears entering the trances required of a maskmaker. Layla makes a crow mask for the General (so he might find his soul), precipitating the action that allows Mary to find her own path while remaining faithful both to Layla and herself. Echoing other ominous futuristic tales, Goldstein's new novel (The Red Magician and Dream Years) is neither very original nor chilling. (November)