Back in 1982, Reed cast a baleful eye on the near-future follies of the military-industrial-commercial Christmas complex in a novel called The Terrible Twos; this is its sequel. And a confusing affair it is, an endless parade of cartoon characters, none of whom sticks around long enough to anchor the work, stumbling across the wasteland of late 1990's America--a wasteland populated at the bottom by ""surps,"" people of color-designated surplus population by the people at the top: militant Christians spearheaded by Reverend Jones, the White House chief of staff who is more powerful than the President (and a good deal more loony: his confidant is Heinrich, the ghost of an SS officer that stowed away on the plane that brought Reagan back from Bitburg). On the political level, the pivotal--indeed, the only--development occurs when Chief Justice Nola Payne undercuts the Christian elite by restoring ex-fashion model Dean Clift (removed via the 25th Amendment) to the White House; Nola, you see, has had the fear of God put into her right-wing soul by a nocturnal visit from the hell-dwelling ghost of Chief Justice Taney (architect of the Dred Scott decision), accompanied by St. Nick. St. Nicholas has been busy on many fronts (thanks to him, even that arch-conservative columnist James Way is now feeding the surps), quite eclipsing his rival miracle-worker, Black Peter. Anything goes in Reed's world, which has space enough for his familiar jeremiads on American women; but if anything goes, there can be no surprises--the revelation, for example, that another White House operative is an alien in disguise causes nary a ripple. Sad to say, this is tired work: Reed is doing little more than going through the motions here, making him seem more grouch than gadfly.