Horror schlockmeister Clements's fourth outing rises above 1993's Children of the End, again posits a brilliant plot idea, and again slips and slides looking for traction. In the earlier novel, humanoids ran amok with religion, much of it learned from TV commercials and sitcoms, and worshipped Vulcan, the Christ of the monsters. Here, chapters alternate between the California present and the Indiana past of lawyer Jeffry Dittimorechapters that more or less grow shorter as the novel goes along until past and present merge into a fictive present existing only in the collective imagination of the populace of Middlefield, Ind., Jeffry's hometown. When Jeffry has a nervous breakdown in Los Angeles, in part because his adulterous wife divorces him just as she undergoes a sudden conversion to Christianity, his boss says get some rest and Jeffry flies home. At first, the town looks completely revamped, but as the chapters blur, Middlefield past fades into Middlefield present, a black hole from which no bus, plane, or car escapes. Jeffry finds himself fighting for his life among demons reared by his childhood friend Timothy, who cut the throat of another childhood friend, then died, and nowstill a childhas sucked Jeffry into the past/present to play murderous boyhood games with him. Hovering over all is an electrically demonic tree that Jeffry as a teenager burned down but that's been reborn. Jeffry also meets Gail, the tragedy-stricken love of his teenage years whom he tossed aside but now again loves. Alas, Gail's a ghostthough one he can live with in fictive Middlefield if he so chooses, once he has battled Timothy to his second death. When the plot finally takes hold at midnovelafter a long setting upit's as fun and inventive as Clements' earlier fundamentalist humanoids.