A sort of companion volume to Shirley's fine alien-contact yarn, A Splendid Chaos (1988), with many of the ideas recurring or undergoing redevelopment. California's a battleground in this near- future US riven by civil war. Investigators from the Alternative Media Channel, led by the intuitive Quinn, are seeking Black Betty, a so-called revolutionary who actually advocates a return to sanity and peace; instead, they get caught up in the fighting. Meanwhile, at a secret military base in the mountains, Colonel Derrick and an alien Zetan named Jaron are forcing p.r. man Farraday to fake a report demonstrating the Zetans' staunch defense of Earth against the hostile, disembodied alien Meta--the exact opposite of the truth. Derrick captures Quinn's group, planning to use them as live cannon fodder in the p.r. setup. Quinn and several of the others, however, are able to mentally contact a Meta, Seeking One, via the ubiquitous IAMton psi-particles to which Derrick and Jaron are blind; and Farraday links up with Ceph, a weird, talented creature of fused human, octopus, and Zetan genes and devoted ally of the godlike Meta. Thrills and spills, with plenty of encouragement for armchair UFO-conspiracy enthusiasts. The drawback is that Shirley's more concerned with putting across his own private theology than getting the narrative details to mesh.