Marge Piercy's new novel is a strange blend of revolutionary melodrama and utopian science fiction--blatantly flawed, yet persuasive and involving. It is the story of an embattled 37-year-old Mexican-American woman who has, in the manner analyzed by Laing, Phyllis Chesler, Erving Goffman and Thomas Szasz, been labeled ""mentally ill"" for expressing her understandable despair. Connie Ramos must struggle not only against her inexorable imprisonment in the mental-patient role, but against the ultimate invasion: the experimental implantation of controlling electrodes in her brain. The citation of Laing, Szasz, et al. is appropriate, for Piercy's narrative, sensitive and sensual though it is, often reads too much like fleshed-out psychopolitical analysis; Connie's experience is permeated with Piercy's angry, didactic awareness, and all the institutional villains wear black hats. But now Connie, in crisis, is contacted by people from a possible, ideal future, people with lovely names like Luciente, Jackrabbit, and Bee, who teach her that ours is a fulcrumtime in which the fate of the world will be decided by the valor or despair of just such seemingly powerless people as she. (The book's one really glaring flaw is the cartoonishness of the bad alternative future which Connie briefly glimpses.) Again, Piercy's year 2137 risks ideological sentimentality by literally embodying every ideal of the counterculture/Movement: ecological wisdom, community, androgyny, ritual, respect for madness, propertylessness, etc. She takes the risk and wins. For Piercy has created this ideal society with such passion, eloquence and energy that the reader not only believes in it but feels a kind of reverse nostalgia for it. It is the most serious and fully imagined Utopia since Ursula K. LeGuin's The Dispossessed, and even the cynical reader will leave it refreshed and rallied--as Piercy intended.