From Publishers Weekly
Futurist wunderkind Womack (Random Acts of Senseless Violence) concludes his heralded Ambient series with this intriguing, clever novel set in an alternate, semihistorical 1968. Some details are familiar: the Velvet Underground is playing small New York City clubs; hallucinogenic drugs are popular and potent. But a Republican, Henry Cabot Lodge, has been president for years, and all African-Americans in the country have been deported, forcing those with any black heritage to keep it disguised. Drifting through this alternate universe is Walter Bullitt, a drug experimenter who talks like a beatnik crossed with John Shaft: "I cooled on my slab till roostertime" translates roughly as "I slept until dawn." Bullitt takes on occasional blackbag operations for the government dosing unsuspecting citizens with drugs in order to observe the results but has second thoughts when he's asked to prevent the upstart Robert Kennedy from running in the presidential election. As he's mulling over the Kennedy job, things begin to get weird: he sees ghosts, he's invited to join a cult, and a bizarre pair of women hijack him for unknown purposes. In short order, Bullitt finds himself at the center of a time/space crisis that threatens to destroy at least two different worlds. Although his hero's vernacular may annoy some readers, Womack has crafted a fast-moving, hipper-than-hip science fiction novel meshing the exuberant wordplay of Anthony Burgess with the high-concept what-if history Philip Dick made famous with The Man in the High Castle. (Mar.) Forecast: This final, top-notch Ambient installment has the potential to generate considerable crossover appeal while satisfying old fans. Those in the know will correct anyone who tries to call this cyberpunk lit no "cyber" is involved but readers of William Gibson should gravitate toward Womack.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
It is 1968. President Lodge, who succeeded the assassinated President Nixon in 1963, won't be seeking reelection, and one of the Kennedy brothers seems poised for the Democrats' nomination. Some sharkish business types seek the services of New York hipster Walter Bullitt, who actually works for the government in exchange for unhassled enjoyment of all the recreational pharmaceuticals he desires. Walter is a natural for what he is asked to do, but he balks because of the Kennedys' well-known penchant for vengeance. He accepts only after freelancing disappoints and he has met a curious short-tall pair of women whose speech is even stranger than Walter's patois. That meeting is the luckiest event of Walter's life. What with Walter's lingo, lots of juicy pop-cultural references (Walter collects old "race" records--a dangerous hobby in an America that has wiped out all blacks--and hangs out at Max's Kansas City to hear the Velvet Underground), and plenty of sf-cum-noir action, the sixth and last of Womack's alternate-world Ambient yarns is highly entertaining. Ray OlsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved