From Publishers Weekly
Various co-existing Americas get a bitter, resonant jibing from Kirn (Thumbsucker
) in his latest fiction of decadent culture on the skids. Founded in the 19th century, the Aboriginal Fulfilled Apostles are a doctrinal smorgasbord of health food enthusiasm, Swedenborgism, matriarchy and semicommunal living. Isolated in Bluff, Mont., the group is dying out, so its only prosperous member, Ennis Lauer, finances some missionary work to Terrestria—aka the on-the-grid U.S. Narrator Mason Plato LaVerle is plucked from his ongoing courtship of young Sarah to trawl for converts with the (as it turns out) tragically temptable Elder Stark. As he and Elder drive through Wyoming, Elder is introduced to crank by a decrepit dealer, and Mason is introduced to sex by a 15-year-old Wiccan. In the Aspen-like Snowshoe, Colo., the two fall into the circle around Errol Effingham Sr., a billionaire constructed mainly of bogus takes on Ayn Rand and a bad stomach, while Mason falls for the lovely Becky, whose former incarnation can still be viewed with a triple-X mouse click. Mason's flat voice, which levels everything to a certain calm, makes overconsumption and dissipation seem funny again. This may be the Livingston, Mont.–based Kirn's best work yet.
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Kirn's satirical novel follows two young men who are dispatched from a cloistered religious community in rural Montana to recruit converts from present-day America. As they gorge on junk food and vapid women, administer a well-being quiz (sample question: "Are you ever aware of your own heartbeat?"), and become in-house counsel for a Colorado mogul, one can clearly discern the author attempting to skewer the consumerism and the spiritual emptiness of contemporary society. But the critique is vitiated by the fact that the community this society is being measured against is so patently silly (young men lose their virginity at a yearly event called "The Frolic"; women read messages from the dead by looking at tree bark), and that the main characters exist only to illustrate the various themes.
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