Dan Lang, who went to New York for the start of a promising life as the leader of a popular punk-rock band, returns home to Icarus, Virginia--where incandescent local rock-singer Erica (one of a group of Lang's friends) has killed herself. And what Lang finds among his other, surviving friends is not much more sanguine. Carmel the dealer is now in so far over his head that only informing to the cops on his competitors is a way out. Johanna has exiled herself further downstate into a disc-jockey job and willed mediocrity. Older mentor Myra Hoffentlich--a sort of den-mother--is fighting a losing battle to keep her alcoholic husband Andrew (formerly of the State Dept.) from self-destruction. And the younger local kids are into suburban, especially debased sex-and-drugs. (There's a scene in which Richard, Erica's ex-lover, deflowers an eager 15-year-old--an encounter which she makes into the most calculating, un-erotic, and joyless one possible.) But though first-novelist Carson tries to spice up the post-high-school angst with literary touches (a Proustian pun serves as a running chapter heading), too much of the talk is stoned and monosyllabic, the drama is in fact just melodrama, and the prose is mediocre: ""Her voice was a runaway horse of pure anger held under a whip of icy control, leaving sweetness and sensuality and even despair finally behind, in a cold fire of absolute tension stretched beyond the breaking point."" Overall, then: an inert, unsure first effort.