A big, near-future disaster novel straddling the border between science fiction and technothriller, likely to appeal to fans of both. Anderson and Beason (coauthors of Assemblers of Infinity, 1993) begin with a huge oil spill in San Francisco Bay. The oil company decides to deploy an octane-eating bacteria, crossbred from two naturally occurring species, but the cure turns out to be worse than the disease: While scientists who bred the new bug swear it cannot spread beyond the spill, it contaminates gasoline in the tanks of cars crossing Golden Gate Bridge during the spraying. As each of the cars gasses up, the bacteria spreads to the gas in the service station tank. Worse, the bug soon develops an appetite for petroleum byproducts, in particular plastic and other synthetics. As the elaborate web of modern technology begins to disintegrate, the characters, a varied cast from all walks of life, are thrown back on their own resources for survival. A venial Louisiana congressman suddenly inherits the presidency; an insurance agent quits her job and takes to the wilderness; ghetto families from Oakland join forces with a hippie commune near Altamont; and a scientist developing a solar power facility in the New Mexico desert becomes the hope for technology's revival. Meanwhile, civilization degenerates into anarchy and cannibalism, the government attempts to retain control by increasingly harsh measures, and a good many protagonists die--usually nastily. In the end, there is hope, as the good guys manage to hang on in spite of all the forces ranked against them. Style and characterization are often clunky, but the fast- moving story pushes all the right emotional buttons for mass success: It's almost un-put-downable.