An overextended but seriously exploratory first novel about a commune in post technological California--a setting in which animals and plants have acquired intelligence and many humans (""heads"") have somehow acquired esp ability. Bandit groups roam the desolate landscape; life is precarious; truces occur only during Festival (a sort of hippie revivalist-meeting-cum-fleamarket). And Carlson's particular commune features a varied animal/human population: esp-sensitive genius Rafallo, who constantly plays music and speaks not at all; genial black giant Jonno, into yoga and meditation; Gays, the gardening goat; gaunt Kay-Nelle, a pacifist motherly type; protector Marl, the hunting jaguar; blonde latecomer Nita, sole survivor of a marauding band; and--on the outside--a young oak tree which has broken away from the communal plant consciousness and makes various attempts to communicate with the commune-ers. Little plot here (there's a final perilous trek to Festival) and far too much meditation-macrobiotic-spiritualist trendiness--but the psychic auras and plant-talking notions are invested with some real inner life, and the characterization is above of par. Overall: an intriguing, modestly successful debut.