cover image You Bright and Risen Angels: A Cartoon

You Bright and Risen Angels: A Cartoon

William T. Vollmann / Author Atheneum Books $22.95 (635p) ISBN

It's no easy taskby the author's clear intentionto say exactly what's going on and why in this ferociously talented first novel, a comic-surrealistic assault upon reason that should appeal to those who enjoy Thomas Pynchon. The story is an epic brew of technology, magic, politics, history and entomology, by turns fiercely satiric and good-naturedly humorous. The narrative flits from the jungles of South America to the dusty plains of Afghanistan, the ice fields of Alaska, the streets of San Francisco and many other places, featuring as its principal theme a pitiless war between insects and the inventors of electricity (the distinction between man and insect being somewhat blurred). This battle takes place amid the semi-rational doings of revolutionaries, reactionaries, electrical engineers, prostitutes and social misfits. Some judgments may be ventured: that Vollmann's imagination is astounding; that his dark vision of a perpetually feuding world gives his novel artistic integrity; and that whatever his story may add up to, every page arrests and entertains. Drawings by the author. (May 27)