This, the latest (last?) in Womack's Ambient series (Random Acts of Senseless Violence, 1996, etc.), finally reaches the US by way of Britain, where it first appeared last year. In 1969, in an alternate world (the Russians ended WWII in 1949 by nuking Berlin; US blacks have either been banished or died of plague; President Nixon was slain in Dallas; and Jack Kennedy's a Washington journalist), Walter Bullitt is a shadowy government "fixer" specializing in psychoactive drugs. When approached by his usual job contacts, something makes Walter wary—maybe the presence of ex-Nazi Hermann Sartorius. He's also troubled by weird ghosts who plead for help and seem to know him; Walter doesn't recognize the ghosts, but Ambient readers will: it's Jake, one-time Dryco assassin, and his love Oktobriana, who were marooned between worlds at the end of Terraplane (1988). Then Walter meets a strange pair of females—they're clearly of mixed race but seem utterly unaware of the ban on blacks—who have urgent business with him and the ghosts: delectable Eulie and her gigantic bodyguard Chlojo hail from the corporate-nightmare world that spawned Dryco. As Walter learns more about the new job—it involves the ubiquitous Kennedys—the more inclined he becomes to listen to Eulie before the world literally falls apart.
What's going on? Well, to disclose that would reveal what little plot there is here. Still, the texture, à la William Gibson, is truly splendid, and Womack has few peers when it comes to inventing alternate vernaculars. Ambient fans will find it diverting and sometimes inspired.