Journalist and novelist Jacobson (Gorijo, 1991) again ventures into Tom Robbins's territory for a seriocomic fiction that purports to be a profound commentary on America's obsession with appearance, tricked up with all sorts of anthro-religious jive. The narrator is one Taylor Powell, a Tom Cruiselike superstar known simply as ``The Face.'' Along with best friend and Oscar co- winner Jimmy Dime (``a character actor with attitude''), Taylor enjoys an endless supply of the opposite sex. But the pressures of satisfying most of the country's female population are starting to weigh heavily. So when his private jet crashes, and he alone survives, he seizes the opportunity to remake himself. In Mexico, he seeks out the mysterious Dr. Parry, a former Hollywood plastic surgeon now engaged in a higher cause, who turns Taylor Powell into Dean Taylor, a nobody with a face that nevertheless has its unique features—and a kind of mystical resonance. (He is, it seems, now a kind of proletarian Everyman.) In Mexico, Dean also meets for the first time the mythic ARANA, a strange band of violent crazies who are evil personified, and with whom he becomes locked in permanent struggle: Even in remote Florida, where Dean eventually becomes a carpenter, marries, and settles down, ARANA rears its ugly head. But the real problem emerges when Dean and his wife have a son, who, not surprisingly, resembles ``The Face'' and acts out against his mysterious father without a past. The plot hurtles through time with the speed of the comet that's threatening the Earth—a looming disaster in which Dean recognizes the hand of ARANA. Dean plays a crucial role in dispersing the comet, thwarting ARANA once again, and then, his mission apparently accomplished, disappearing again, taking on yet another identity. Jacobson's one-note humor wears thin very quickly, and his ad- hoc metaphysics simply annoy.
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