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Amnesia Moon

Author: Lethem, Jonathan

Genre: Novel


In Jonathan Lethem's Amnesia Moon, protagonist Everett Moon, aka Chaos, tours the wonderland of 1990s US cultural imaginary and ideology. The protagonist has forgotten his (indeed, all) history, and travels to recover fragments of them that he hopes to piece together into a semblance of sense. He begins his travels as Chaos, caught up in the horror of post-nuclear apocalypse, briefly visits a scene of blinding ecological disaster and encounters the edge of a war between humans and aliens, experiences the emptiness of New Age southern California suburban mobility, and finally ends up in Philip K. Dick-land, where certain individuals make the reality everyone else is obliged to live, and where an injection can bring one into a temporary reality inhabited by apparently deceased persons. Each spatial territory Everett Moon visits is centered on a familiar trope that organizes reality around it (though Philip K. Dick-land is arguably the master trope of them all). They appear to Everett Moon both as separate geographical territories (traversed by his own dreams) and as choices on a menu-- choices he ultimately rejects for the material concreteness of the other. Amnesia Moon could be described, therefore, as a fable of learning to live in the flesh and love it: in total, flagrant opposition to the carnephobia that most male-authored cyberpunk, for instance, so notably celebrates.

Those wanting to read the book as nailed-down science fiction have the option of choosing from among the tropes on the menu the one best able to explain the fracturing of reality into many separate versions:

"The hives," Vance said. "They're growing inside all the houses. Humans have to tend them, bring them food, trinkets, little offerings. The place where the aliens come from, the dominant species is some sort of hive intelligence, and the bigger animals serve as their arms and legs. So that's what they did to us when they landed. Turned us into animals. And they don't really give a damn about the condition of their animals, not when there are so many of them.

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