Following Murphy's impressive hardback debut, The Falling Woman (1986), another foray into magic realism: an artists' colony in a near-future depopulated San Francisco wages a surreal war against determined totalitarians. In this expanded short story, a sudden, unstoppable plague has devastated governments and populations worldwide. A few survivors and their descendants have made San Francisco their home; here they scavenge, farm, or trade for life's necessities--and devote their souls to fabricating bizarre art forms out of junk: wind-chimes, mirror-mazes, displays of skulls, psychedelic graffiti. The Machine builds tiny, intricate robots out of old toys; Danny-boy desires to paint the Golden Gate bridge blue. Then a wild, nameless young woman appears (she will later be named--Jax--by the "angel" that flew off with her dying mother) to warn the artists of the approach of the General, a megalomaniac whose perverse aim is to resurrect the defunct US--by force if necessary. Meanwhile, the city itself creates various surreal phenomena: a cloud of blue butterflies that melds to the bridge (to Danny-boy's delight); Jax's golden-glowing angel. At last the General--mockingly dubbed Four-stars by the artists--invades, and the artists prepare to resist him in the only way they know how. Charming ideas, picturesque vistas, imaginative artwork--along with some very slender characters, a thin, strained plot, and an ending that self-destructs. Overall, a rather disappointing outing for this talented writer.