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Starred Review. It's only natural that Alan, the broadminded hero of Doctorow's fresh, unconventional SF novel, is willing to help everybody he meets. After all, he's the product of a mixed marriage (his father is a mountain and his mother is a washing machine), so he knows how much being an outcast can hurt. Alan tries desperately to behave like a human being—or at least like his idealized version of one. He joins a cyber-anarchist's plot to spread a free wireless Internet through Toronto at the same time he agrees to protect his youngest brothers (members of a set of Russian nesting dolls) from their dead brother who's now resurrected and bent on revenge. Life gets even more chaotic after he becomes the lover and protector of the girl next door, whom he tries to restrain from periodically cutting off her wings. Doctorow (Eastern Standard Tribe) treats these and other bizarre images and themes with deadpan wit. In this inventive parable about tolerance and acceptance, he demonstrates how memorably the outrageous and the everyday can coexist. Agent, Russell Galen. (May 5)
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Middle-aged entrepreneur Alan, for whom mother is a washing machine and father is a mountain, has moved into one of Toronto's more interesting neighborhoods. The brother Alan and his other brothers killed years ago has returned to hound the family, and those other brothers, who are nesting dolls, show up on Alan's doorstep starving because the innermost brother has vanished. A next-door neighbor has wings that her boyfriend cuts back regularly so she can pass for normal. In the midst of such ordinary oddness, getting involved in a scheme to provide free wireless Internet to the neighborhood and eventually the city seems reasonable, even when it's masterminded by a crusty punk whose gear comes from Dumpster diving. Eventually, Alan concludes that he must go back to the mountain, a home he hasn't visited in years. The combination of Alan facing up to his family and their strangeness, the damage his dead brother will do to everything Alan cares about, and Doctorow's inescapable technological enthusiasm eventuates in a lovely, satisfying tale. Regina Schroeder
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