Chloe's Reviews > Amnesia Moon

Amnesia Moon by Jonathan Lethem
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's review
Jan 24, 10

really liked it
bookshelves: dystopian-fiction, fiction, scifi-fantasy
Read from January 17 to 23, 2010

Throughout the years Jonathan Lethem has made no secret of the high regard that he holds for Philip K. Dick. The MacArthur grant winner has edited and written the introduction for the Library of America anthologies of Dick's work and written several great articles about the mad prophet of science fiction's final descent into paranoia and madness. For all of this though, it wasn't until I picked up one of Lethem's first published novels, Amnesia Moon, that I was able to see just how much the hallucinatory style of Dick had influenced the writer.

Living in an abandoned movie theater in Wyoming, drinking poorly distilled grain alcohol and forcing himself to stay awake for days at a time to stop himself from dreaming, Chaos can't really be said to be enjoying his apocalypse. At some time in the past something happened that shattered the world. Nuclear war, alien invasion, a blinding mist- theories abound. Too bad nobody can quite remember their names, let alone their past, so we're not quite sure. What we are sure about is that in the wake of this disaster a group of people arose who were able to make their dreams into reality, influencing those around them to believe, look like and act according to this inflicted reality. Tired of dreaming other people's dreams, Chaos flees Wyoming with a fur-covered girl in search of the answers to his past and the source of the all-pervading amnesia. The duo take a roadtrip through the blasted ruins of America, alternately being effected by and effecting the various dreamers that they come across.

With its ever-shifting cascade of conflicting realities, its obsession with the frangible nature of identity and its bleak view of the future, this book could easily have been published as a recently discovered manuscript of Dick's. The swirl of events passes through so many different scenes, each town an isolated universe of disorder and insanity, that I was reminded of the complete head trip of Dick's Ubik and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, never sure what to believe or where the truth may lie. In recent years Lethem has shifted his sights from the science fiction of his early books to his other lifelong obsession (music) but he still stands as an accomplished master of the genre. If all you've read of Lethem is his post-millennial output then you owe it to yourself to try out his first books.
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