An ingenious and cryptic allegorical fantasy, obviously inspired by Karel apek's classic play The Insect Comedy, in which characters exist simultaneously as human beings and as various insects--by the prize-winning young Russian author of Omon Ra and The Yellow Arrow (both 1996). Pelevin's story consists of a number of linked episodes all set in the immediate environs of a seaside resort hotel where Samuel Sacker, a visiting American businessman, confers with his Russian associates-to-be Arthur and Arnold. However, all three are also mosquitoes, and the acquisitive Sam unwisely feasts on the blood of a sleeping lout who has ``imbibed Russian Forest cologne.'' We next observe father and son dung beetles pondering the mysteries of the universe (such as Egyptian spirituality); a woman (and fly) named Marina, who endures the struggle for material goods in a hivelike cooperative while endlessly digging her own burrow; an engineer, Seryozha, who transfers blueprints onto computer code (and, in his parallel life as a cicada, grows a mustache and is mistaken for a cockroach), and many other similarly compound figures whose fates are joined together in astonishingly inventive ways. For example, Nikita and Maxim, a painterdrug dealer and ``conceptual artist,'' share a joint while lamenting the fact that ``bugs'' are crawling into the ``weed'' they smoke only to find that they are bugs inside the joint offered by Sam Sacker to a sultry many-legged beauty named Natasha, who--we later discover--was hatched from one of the eggs laid by Marina, from whom she is estranged. Several other such connections are made in this hilariously transformed world where ``moths fly toward the light, flies fly toward shit, and they're all in total darkness.'' It's a powerfully disturbing metaphor for the economic deprivation and social chaos of post-Soviet Russia, and Pelevin develops it with haunting, mocking specificity and authority. A brilliant work from one of the best newer writers on the international scene.