Tim Martin

Surreality Bites

Chronic City

By

Faber & Faber 467pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City, a novel that pays extensive homage to the mystic paranoid genius Philip K Dick, takes place in an alternate New York engulfed in a thick grey fog after a nameless national disaster. Somewhere else in the world a war is being fought: but although everyone knows the basics, which include a carpet of Chinese space-mines that bar access to Earth’s orbit, the New York Times has begun printing a ‘War Free Edition’ to leave space for the city’s own problems. These include a semi-mythical tiger that gulps down whole city blocks when it strikes – though paranoid conjecture suggests that it may instead be a sentient earth-moving machine – and a pair of nesting eagles in the façade of a prestigious brownstone.

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