I've read a few other pieces of Doctorow's work and they were always enjoyable if a bit strange and out there. This one went so far out there into strangeland, there were no Taco Bell's to be found. Alan (Adam, Alric) seems almost normal, a bit odd to be sure and maybe a bit overly friendly but that is only because no one knows of his past. He grew up in the shadow of his loving father, the mountain, and was rocked in the embrace of his mother, the washing machine. As each of his brothers was born, he cared for them and tried to help them fit into the world but that wasn't always possible. Bradly (Bobby, Branden) could see the future. Craig (Charles, Chris) was destined to become an island, a miniature of their father. Davey (Darren, Doug) was a sick and twisted child who delighted in tormenting others while stuck in his desiccated, falling apart body. Edward (Egbert, Ernie), Frank (Franz, Fred), and George (Greg, Gordon) are a trio of nesting dolls who can't survive without the others.
Alan has come off the mountain and been moderately successful through his study of people. He has now bought and remodeled a new house, gotten to know his new neighbors (a brother and sister trying to figure out their lives, a girl with wings, and a surly young man) and is ready to start writing a novel when Ed & Frank show up on his doorstep to tell him that George is missing and they think Davey is behind it. Alan invites them to stay while they try to find the missing brother. But then Frank disappears and then Ed is abducted down a drainpipe in the fountain outside his home. Now he is remembering his past and trying to figure out Davey's next move before Davey comes for him.
So yeah, as I said, it's very strange. The timeline jumps all over the place as well. But you know, it works. You very quickly figure out when things are taking place. You figure out what is going on with the character's names. Really, about 20% of the way through, I didn't really notice any of it any more and was just immersed in the story which was incredibly well told. My only complaint is the ending left me wanting to scream as it was totally unfulfilling but in it's own way, that too totally works with the rest of the story. This is not a typical story with a clear cut beginning, middle, and end. It's much more like a snapshot of Alan's life with enough background so you can understand the present day events but since his life doesn't end at the end of the story, the story doesn't have a real resolution. In all, I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to someone looking for something very different.
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