Prolific British-born essayist and novelist Dyer’s second novel, a Kafkaesque road trip first published in 1993 in the U.K., appears for the first time in the U.S. along with his first novel, The Colour of Memory (reviewed in this issue).
The setting is a country resembling but not exactly replicating the United States in what might be the near future. Recently released from prison, Walker meets a beautiful woman named Rachel who hires him as a tracker, an illegal profession in a world where people frequently choose to disappear. Rachel wants him to find her husband, Malory, who did something unexplained that sent him on the run. Walker is to warn Malory that bad people are after him while getting Malory to sign and fingerprint some papers ensuring Rachel’s financial security when he's eventually arrested. So Walker, already more than half in love, sets off with a good-luck locket from Rachel and not much else. Since Malory has avoided being photographed, Rachel has only one blurry image of him. In a downward progression, an address gone cold leads to a phone number gone dead leads to a simple postmark. Walker gives up on clues to follow his intuition. He travels from city to city, some with familiar names that don’t connect to their actual geography, others with Bunyan-esque names like Despond and Independence. Sometimes Walker finds evidence that Malory has come and gone. He sees Malory in a crowd but loses him. He is stalked himself. The traveling becomes more important than finding Malory, until it culminates in a collection of snapshots that both clarify and cloud what the journey has been about for both Malory and Walker—snapshots, an occasional motif in Dyer’s first novel, become the central theme in his second.
A pretentiously self-conscious, lulling yet strangely pleasurable cross of Gulliver’s Travels and Pilgrim’s Progress with a little of the television cult show The Prisoner thrown in for good measure.