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Ether

City Lights, dist. by Consortium. Oct. 2011. c.164p. ISBN 9780872865181. pap. $13.95. F
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Imagine a world in which a cast of nameless characters wander a postapocalyptic landscape for reasons that are unclear at best, and you'll end up with not only a metaphor for American politics but also a novel very much like this work by Ehrenreich (The Suitors). Set adrift in a burning world, this ragtag band of acolytes follow a man provisionally named The Stranger, a threadbare, vaguely Christlike figure who is endowed with no miraculous powers, only a drive to search for an object that is never explicitly named. Throughout, we are given intermittent glimpses into another character, an authorial presence who interacts with The Stranger until the close of the book, when his creation disappears into the pages of the novel.
VERDICT This odd cross between Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot and Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian is full of captivating scenes, and the protagonist is interesting if puzzling. But the devices that Ehrenreich uses to create distance between the action and the reader leave the novel with an ungrounded feel. For adventuresome readers only.

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