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The wacky but very conscious names: Tony Pizzicato, Quellabia Poole, Prudence Penderecki. A huge Indian (Floyd Cloudfinger) who enters the book shouting that ""Everything's gone. . . . Bears slaughtered, b-b-buffalo smashed, driven from the grasslands"" and who then proceeds on a tomahawk-flinging search for his missing sister. A Burroughsian computer fiend. Swipes of arch prose: ""an immense left breast swung into view with all the weight and authority of the history of Islam."" John Givens, it seems, has written a quintessential Sixties novel half a decade late. Pulled over the frame of us-against-them, the story is set in a stark near future when Urban Renewal has left only a disreputable Inner City and laid waste the rest. Givens, in the rubble, cultivates a few different plot plants: the revenge of a small-time mobster named Laughing Harold for the murder years before of his father, Big Jim Baine; Cloudfinger's quest through the denizens of the Inner City; the terror of a rogue police force; a stubborn vestige of culture surviving among the dog-stew-eating hoboes who live in the ""middens,"" the ash-heaps surrounding the Inner City. When not straining for bizarrerie, Givens writes with economy and flair, but, in folding and refolding themes and characters we've come by before, he seems to flog his book onward to no particular end--at the finale, when he turns revoltingly gory, blasting the book apart, it's as if he's unable to close up shop any other way. A curious lethargy lurks here; in this first novel Givens hasn't yet conjured up an idiosyncracy ali his own, and maybe that's why it all seems jerry-built. It's missing a demon.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1977
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich