The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The novel tells the story of Job Napoleon Salk’s life, from his birth on the eve of the twenty-first century to his death less than nineteen years later. The first half is set in various places in Washington, D.C., where Salk is born and where he grows up. The second half is set in Xanadu, the country’s oldest, largest, and most dangerous “Tandy” (Toxic and Nuclear Disposal Installation), somewhere in Nevada.

Salk’s life starts out badly and gets worse. His mother is a drug addict, and Salk is born facially malformed, undersized, and underweight. He finds a haven in Cloak House, an orphanage run by the saintly but strict Brother Bonifant. By the age of ten, however, Salk is on the streets, and by the age of eighteen he has been a drug runner, acquired a criminal record, nearly died in a juvenile detention home, and made the mistake of befriending the daughter of a wealthy family. This is a mistake because it brings him to the attention of Wilfred Dell, an evil man who is working for the Royal Hundred, the country’s wealthiest families.

Dell forces Salk to go to Xanadu, also known as the Great Nebraska Tandy, the place to which many scientists were banished as punishment for their supposed role in the Quiebra Grande (Great Crash) of 2005, an economic disaster that affected the entire world. Dell is worried that the scientists are up to something.

Working undercover, Salk proves Dell right. The scientists have...

(The entire section is 424 words.)