Jeter's second novel, like his first, features an unlikely, self-consciously gloom-and-doomy near-future backdrop: a balkanized US of climate-controlled sectors where arctic snows abut broiling deserts; industrial production is controlled by the Pentagon, and various big corporations beam their slave workers' mindless videos (soap, sex, violence) to keep them docile. The latest hit video from Speed Death Productions is the biography of Ross Schuyler, ""sprinter""; he runs bootleg microchips across a desert sector while dodging missiles launched by the Pentagon's orbiting satellites. Previously, Schuyler became involved with ""Godfriend"" Cynth, a member of a weird, all-female sect (they're all lesbian or celibate, believing that any child born to a Godfriend will be the Son of God--and they don't wish Him to be trapped in the ghastly, unbreakable prison that is Earth). However, Cynth and Schuyler became intimate; and, five years later, their son Lumen is worshipped by the Godfriends and the workers watching the video. Then Schuyler discovers that the video is a hideous swindle: Speed Death has engineered his entire career, including the appearance of Lumen, as a means to cement their grip on the hapless workers. There are problems aplenty: the opening is a horrible mess; Jeter's habit of rendering the video scenes as shooting scripts is a major irritant; and the ending is weak and contrived. Nevertheless, the plotting is robust and complex, the characters three-dimensional, and the drama mostly effective--little of which was apparent in the pointlessly nasty Dr. Adder (1984). Badly flawed, then, but thoughtful and often absorbing.