Steve Erickson, . . Simon & Schuster, $24 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-6472-3

Erickson's dreamlike, postapocalyptic seventh novel, a follow-up to the well-received Sea Came in at Midnight , takes place in and around a lake that stands in what was once the middle of Los Angeles. Through a handful of fractured narratives, the author tells the story of a single mother, 21-year-old Kristin, and her three-year-old son, Kirk (short for Kierkegaard), who live in an abandoned hotel on the water. Kristin once belonged to a religious-suicide cult and has worked as a memory girl in Tokyo ("I used to be fucking fearless, you should know that about me"), but now she's paralyzed by the thought that Kirk will be swallowed up by the lake. Driven by her obsession, she dives into the lake herself, leaving Kirk to be stolen by owls. In competing alternate scenarios, a version of Kristin recovers her son, while another does not and instead becomes a dominatrix named Lulu. Meanwhile, a man named Wang appears, who seems to be a key figure in a resistance movement or crusade that is fighting a war in a North America whose borders have been rearranged. Erickson's treacherously shifting realities never quite cleave to an inner logic. More problematic, however, is the leaden handling of themes of birth, reproduction, motherhood and rebellion, which loom inert and inscrutable over the tale. Agent, Melanie Jackson. (Feb.)