Hebert has forsaken his Darby series of novels about rural New Hampshire (The Dogs of March, 1979; A Little More Than Kin, 1982, etc.)--and realism itself, for that matter--to journey among the cyberpunky ideas of virtual reality and road-novel fecklessness. Here, Web is a New Hampshire kid who is inhabited by a demon named Xiphi; whose hippie father deserts him and then returns for a time; who falls under the wing of an eerie manipulator named Royal Durocher; and who moves from South Bronx gangs to Ohio and New Orleans and New Mexico in the company of various half-real figures of exaggeration. The life Web lives within is never quite his own-- a forerunner to a new generation; Royal Durocher assures him that ``You can make your reality someone else's reality; I'm talking about Artificial Experience. It's the ultimate, the front stoop to doomsday....Soon the parents will be dead, soon the grown-ups will be enslaved, soon the girls will be our cheerleaders. We, the boys of America, will rule with weapons of Artificial Experience, Synthetic Encounters, and the Exposition of the Uncanny.'' However sincere the effort to update Mark Twain, the result is a mush of Burroughs and sentimental boy-buddy picaresques like the movie Stand By Me. Everything here is rushed, swiped at, penciled-in; never does the book make a bold enough line or shading. Commendable for its new (if not especially promising) direction, but a botch all the same.