Amnesia Moon by Jonathon Lethem (1995) 247 p.
Jonathon Lethem’s second novel, Amnesia Moon, centres around a man named Chaos living in the post-apocalyptic town of Hatfork, Wyoming. The bombs have fallen, society has crumbled, the sky is tinted with radioactivity and the mutated townsfolk are reliant on a tyrant named Kellogg for their food. Less than 30 pages into the book, after making him admit that he can’t remember how long ago the bombs fell or what he was doing when they did, Kellogg convinces Chaos that the truth of their world is “a little more complicated,” and Chaos sets out on a post-apocalyptic roadtrip to uncover the truth.
Lethem’s first novel, Gun With Occasional Music, felt like a neat concept for a short story that had been stretched out into a novel. Amnesia Moon feels more like a collection of short stories patched together to make an extremely surreal novel, and I was unsurprised to learn, after finishing it, that this is precisely the case. Chaos travels across an America devastated by wildly different apocalyptic events – everybody agrees something bad has happened, but it appears to be different everywhere he goes. The only unifying element is that each location is dominated by a “dreamer,” somebody forcing their version of reality upon others. The different locales are all drawn from various unpublished short stories Lethem had written.
This is a lazy way to write a novel, but I found Amnesia Moon readable enough, and it has a particularly good ending which suggests that one of the more disturbing realities is in fact the truth. It deals quite a lot with dreams and memories and amnesia, which I normally find tedious, but Lethem is a skillful enough writer that Amnesia Moon is rarely tiresome. I didn’t see much point to it, as a novel, but he’s a good writer and I’ll keep reading him. I look forward to when I get to the point in his career when he’s actually writing novels rather than short stories in disguise.