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Total Oblivion, More or Less: A Novel Paperback – November 24, 2009

3.7 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As this peculiar but entertaining first novel begins, geography and cosmology have shifted. Natural laws work unpredictably. The U.S. government has disappeared and plundering bands of Goths and Scythians roam the Midwest. Sea serpents close the shipping lanes, and oil companies convert their tankers into slave ships that cruise the Mississippi. Clear-eyed, tough-minded teen Macy Palmer flees St. Paul with her family for the illusory safety of an island in the Gulf of Mexico. As they travel through a wavering postapocalyptic landscape, her relatives undergo upsetting personal metamorphoses. DeNiro has attracted attention for his short fiction (especially the Small Beer Press collection Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead), and this longer story's energy ebbs a bit as Macy gets some of the oddness under control. Nonetheless, it's an impressive debut from a promising writer. (Dec.)
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“Chock-a-block with adventure, suspense, and surprise. Apocalyptic family values, too! Recommended to all.”—Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club

“Thoughtful, ambitious writing and truly transformative reading.” —Small Spiral Notebook

"Wow! This is a wonderfully weird, fun, touching, heartfelt and memorable novel. Imagine if Huck Finn had been living in post-apocalypse America, and Terry Pratchett had been promoted to God, with George Saunders as his avenging angel. The world of this book is a little like that. In this case, the role of Huck is played by a sixteen-year-old-girl named Macy, whose smart, mordant, utterly convincing voice grounds our journey through this crazy landscape. Macy reminds us that no matter how surreal things get, there is still resilience and hope in the human spirit. Alan DeNiro has created a hilarious and terrifying dream world, but his real genius is that he's peopled it with characters we come to love."—Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply, You Remind Me of Me, and National Book Award finalist Among the Missing

“In Total Oblivion, More or Less, Alan DeNiro lifts the modern family drama and sets it down in the middle of a wildly inventive post apocalyptic landscape. The insulated life of Middle America may be a thing of the past, but DeNiro finds a way to lead readers into a future full of humor, imagination, and hope.”—Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief

“There aren’t many writers who take weirdness as seriously as DeNiro does, and fewer still who can extract so much grounded emotion, gut-dropping humor, and rousing adventure from it. A dizzying display of often brilliant, always strange, and definitely unique storytelling.”—Booklist, starred review

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 306 pages
  • Publisher: Spectra; Original edition (November 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553592548
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553592542
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #544,275 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 27, 2016
Format: Kindle Edition
This debut novel took me months to finish, I kept picking it up reading ten pages, putting it down, and came close to giving up on it multiple times. By the end, I kind of wish I had, because it never really comes together in any meaningful way. The story has all kinds of imaginative elements, but they're jumbled together so incoherently that they lose all meaning.

At its heart, it's kind of a post-apocalyptic river journey (hard not to think of Twain here), as some kind of space-time rift has occurred and the United States has ceased to exist. Instead there seems to be some kind of empire, and there are Goths and Scythians roaming around, concentration camps, slavery, and a mutant plague, and all technology fails to work. The heroine here is Macy, a regular 16-year-old girl from St. Paul, who is heading downriver with her family (college professor father, sick and pregnant mother, older sister, younger brother). Various calamities befall them, they meet strange people, some of whom are helpful, some not. There are family issues. There's a talking dog.

For me, the whole thing was just kind of a mess. Because I couldn't work out the timeline of what had happened (at some points it sounded like society crumbled a few months ago, but in other parts, it had to a have been at least 5-10 years), nor the geography, nor the players involved. And without that grounding, the mission that Macy eventually undertakes has very little meaning. It's hard to tell if the author just had it all clear in his head and couldn't get it on the page, or if it's deliberately confusing. Either way, I never found a way into caring about Macy or any other characters, and so the book didn't work for me.
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Format: Paperback
Total Oblivion, More or Less is a fantastical voyage down the Mississippi that would make Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer proud. The only difference with this trip is: there's no going home.

"There were tall white birches lining the eastern shore, their bark like an albino's skin. They seemed like trees from a different place - but then I remembered that we were in a different place. And anyway, we'd never be going back to these birches. Few things from the journey would really be remembered. But maybe I would make a point of remembering the birches, because no one else would." -pg 152-153

Cell phones, computers, universities, strip malls, and all modern conveniences are gone. The Mississippi River has become as deep as an ocean housing submarines, whales, and other deep sea aquatic life. The states no longer exist by the names we know and English is not the language spoken by all. On the shoreline roam giraffes, and horse-mounted warriors called Scythians who battle for power with the new leaders called the Empire.

Despite there not being an America anymore, the American spirit is strong with average-citizens-now-turned-refuges taking whatever is available and starting fresh. New professions and businesses emerge in cities that should be familiar, but are unrecognizable due to the plague that ravages society, the shifting environment, and various governments fighting for control.

"I kept thinking, well, maybe all of this trouble will pass over, and electricity will start working again, and the Scythians will retreat to wherever they came from, and the Empire will give back their land, too, and people will be able to use their cars again and drive wherever they want to, and the government will find a cure for the plague, and we'll go back to St.
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Format: Paperback
First and foremost: This isn't a book for everyone. It can get confusing at times and at times and really, but that's kind of the point. You're not dealing with the savior of the world, or following the adventures of a reluctant teenager who somehow became the symbol of a resistance. No, instead, you're dealing with the side characters of a cataclysmic event that literally happened overnight. These characters aren't made to be likeable, but rather to showcase what can happen to the average person, although I use that term lightly because it is a bit of a weird book. Again though, it isn't really about what happened to the world, as more of what happened to this family when Vikings randomly come about and wipe out all of technology and take over the world.
Yeah, it's a bit of a weird book, and honestly, if you aren't into these kinds of weird books, then you're not going to like it much, because weird things do happen. I mean giraffe randomly appears at one point and then a dog starts talking. It just gets all kinds of weird and I truly do just enjoy it.
Although I did find it a little difficult to figure out where the dialogue begins because there aren't any quotation marks (or at least my version didn't have any), but I got into the groove of things son enough. Still though, would've loved me some quotation marks.
So if you're into a weird books and want to read something that isn't about kids and teenagers forced to be heroes, than you're for sure going to love this.
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Format: Paperback
This is the story of Macy, an ordinary teenage girl in an ordinary American family, in St. Paul, Minnesota. But things are going a bit wrong in her world. Scythians have invaded Minnesota, fighting the Empirial forces... huh? Yes, that is what this book is like, as Macy and her family end up on a strange trip down the Mississippi river. Old cities no longer exist, new ones are there. And the Mississippi appears to have gotten very, very deep.

This is a wonderful book of misplaced history, fantastical events, and a human being (Macy) coming to grips with her life and her family. And really, isn't life like that for all of us, all of the time, anyway? Who knows what amazing thing is coming down the pike for any of us. You just have to deal with it.

I loved this beautifully written little book.
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