Study Guide

Amnesia Moon

by Jonathan Lethem

Amnesia Moon Summary

Summary (Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Chaos lives in Hatfork, a Wyoming town struggling to survive in the aftermath of a nuclear war. Hatfork exists under the sway of a tyrant named Kellogg, whose dreams infiltrate the sleep of everyone who lives there. Impatient with the stagnation of the town, Chaos leaves with a young mutant girl named Melinda. Chaos and Melinda encounter several pockets of society, each with different reactions to and explanations of what happened after the nuclear war, and each with different receptivity to the dreams of Chaos and others.

In the mountains, they meet a group of people living in an opaque fog who call Chaos “Moon,” thereby reminding him of an earlier identity. Here Chaos/Moon begins to recover fragments of his life before the changes, which are no longer attributed to a nuclear war. The people in the fog pour their energy into researching ways to see through the fog, and they grow hostile when Chaos begins transmitting Kellogg’s dreams into their territory. Moon and Melinda then move on, only to discover the McDonaldians, who make hamburgers in an abandoned town and strictly adhere to long-irrelevant policies. Their next encounter occurs in the desert, when a strange machine drops a paint bomb on their solar-powered car, which consequently dies near Vacaville, California.

Vacaville is controlled by a Luck Board, which hands out jobs and houses in a system based on individual scores on a “luck test.” The government of Vacaville also generates television programming starring only government officials. Moon and Melinda stay with Edie and her children Ray and Dave. Their arrival sparks the unwelcome interest of Cooley, a Government Star. Meanwhile, Moon’s powerful dreams, apparently capable of broadcasting over long distances, attract an old friend to Vacaville. Moon then heads to San Francisco hoping to find Gwen, a past love, about whom he has been dreaming. There he becomes the focus of a plot to use his dreaming power to reclaim a single, unified reality. Many theories are exchanged about the causes of the reality breakdown, among them the idea that an alien invasion explains the strange machine that bombed Moon’s car in the California desert. Moon flees San Francisco and heads back into the desert, and the puzzle of the reality breakdown is never solved.