cover image Almanac of the Dead

Almanac of the Dead

Leslie Marmon Silko. Simon & Schuster, $24.5 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-66608-8

Silko's ( Ceremony ) ambitious, massive new novel is an impassioned indictment of the white man's rule in the Americas, a prophecy of a revolution by Native Americans, and a jeremiad warning of a corrupt world rushing to Armageddon. But in combining a corrosive picture of contemporary life and an apocalyptic vision of the near future, Silko is overwhelmed both by her multifaceted, complex plot and by her own rhetoric. In an epic narrative heavy with intrigue and carnage, she juggles--unsuccessfully--more than two dozen characters and a surfeit of subplots. The title refers to an ancient notebook whose prophecies someday will bring together the tribal peoples of the Southwest and Mexico to reclaim their ancestral lands. The notebook was bequeathed to the grandmother of 60-year-old twin sisters of Mexican and American Indian lineage: Zeta, who smuggles drugs and arms in preparation for the inevitable uprising, and Lecha, a TV talk show performer with mystical powers to locate the dead. Set mainly in Tucson and Mexico, the novel depicts a U.S. government and judicial system as evil as the criminals with whom they deal. Indeed, there are virtually no decent nor likable characters here; even those of indigenous American descent have been corrupted by modern culture and ancient hate. Despite its laudable aims, this meandering blend of mystical folklore, thriller-type violence and futuristic prophecy is unwieldy, unconvincing and largely unappealing. (Nov.) Let's run over 2 columns