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Total Oblivion, More or Less    by Alan DeNiro order for
Total Oblivion, More or Less
by Alan DeNiro
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Spectra, 2009 (2009)
Softcover, e-Book

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*   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Alan DeNiro's Total Oblivion, More or Less is a weird and wonderful post apocalyptic family adventure. The apocalypse seems to be a blurring of realities and times, so that barbaric Scythians invade the American continent - but perhaps it's simply a massive breakdown of civilization.

It begins in suburban Minnesota, where sixteen-year-old Macy (the primary narrator, although others take brief turns on stage) lives with her parents, older sister Sophia, weird ('gifted and troubled') younger brother Ciaran, and the latter's dog Xerxes. When society begins disintegrating, Macy's father (an astronomy professor) - who 'was always snatching redemption from the jaws of really, really bad parenting' - is at a loss, and the family simply starts reacting to events (some manipulated by Ciaran).

Plague strikes, armies invade, technology fails, and the family is tossed out of their home and into a refugee camp. Just before the camp is overrun, they escape by boat down the Mississippi. Amongst Macy's essential supplies for the trip is The Fellowship of the Ring trilogy, which she liked because it 'was as dysfunctional as my family - they were only able to get anything done apart and not together.'

As they float downriver on a converted steamboat, Macy's pregnant mother Grace succumbs to the plague, and then Macy gets it as well. One family member deserts them and others die (the dog makes it). The survivors settle in St. Louis, where Ciaran is arrested for espionage and Macy's dad pleads with her to travel to the capital of the empire, Nueva Roma, to support her sibling. Along the way, she's joined by one family member she didn't know she had, and frees another from slavery.

In this supremely surreal coming of age story (nightmare?), Macy learns from her family that 'you have to roll with the punches, the good and the bad. You have to keep moving forward.' I can't say that I really enjoyed Total Oblivion, More or Less but its impressive display of imaginative agility kept me reading.

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