This striking but ultimately cloying novel riffs loosely on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, recasting the action in Noughties San Francisco among the sort of people who steal wireless broadband signals and use the word ‘inappropriate’. Henry, Will and Molly have each lost their way trying to get to a party on the west side of Buena Vista Park. Henry, an oncologist who works in paediatrics, was abducted as a child and held captive for four years; his mother is a chronic depressive, his father has died of cancer, and his phobia of dirt has made his lover dump him in frustration. Will – a tree surgeon and writer – has also broken up with his partner, Carolina, whose brother, Molly’s boyfriend Ryan, recently hanged himself. While wandering the park, Henry, Will and Molly meet a bunch of vagrants at work on a musical adapted from the 1973 science-fiction film Soylent Green. Surveying all this – of course – is the faery kingdom ruled by Titania and Oberon, who are in mourning for their leukaemia-stricken changeling.
The narration, issuing from somewhere ‘beyond the threshold of ordinary human senses’, shifts between these various perspectives. A vaguely snarky and ironic bathos prevails: a minor character called Salome is ‘a woman entirely at odds with her name, since she was a blocky lesbian unlikely ever to do