Kalifornia

Marc Laidlaw, Author St. Martin's Press $18.95 (245p) ISBN 978-0-312-08830-9
With a breakneck pace and a wonk's sense of humor, Laidlaw ( Neon Lotus ) neatly satirizes our postmodern society in this wild, almost hallucinatory novel. In the future U.S.A. that is the book's setting, flat-screen entertainment has evolved into full virtual-reality experience; stars are ``wired'' to transmit from their senses directly to their worshipful audiences, who are themselves wired to receive more channels than a cable box. The Figueroas were the nation's favorite wire family before tragedy shattered their show; now only Poppy, the elder Figueroa daughter, remains on the air with her own production. During the taping of an episode to mark the bicentennial of California's statehood, her newborn child Calafia is kidnapped, and when all else fails it falls to Poppy's hitherto aimless brother Sandy to venture into the quarantined ``Holy City' to rescue the baby--who, as the first person to be born wired, may have powers that neither Poppy nor Sandy expects. Laidlaw plays fast and loose with his premises, but it works: we're never quite sure how much of a wire star's life is shown, where the line between reality and fantasy is drawn, if it exists at all. Laidlaw's future is far from believable, but as a satirical extrapolation from our media-saturated times, the narrative drives its points home. A quick, enjoyable romp full of surprising twists and enlivened by an incisive wit. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/1993
Release date: 02/01/1993
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