Mick Farren was one of the writers who inspired me to try my hand at writing. Some of his finest work (the Feelies, The Armageddon Crazy, The Long Orbit, Vickers) I've read many times.
This story has an echo of what made those books so fascinating. Farren's worlds are ones populated with less-than-lovable losers; violent places with dire things lurking in the shadows. I've been hooked since the first I read, and I think one reason for that is that the author's jaundiced view on humanity strikes a chord not found in a lot of fiction.
Anyway. This novel is clearly the outset of a new millieu, and it reads that way. The settings and greater themes of the day seem to be in the forefront of the story at all times, competing with the characters for your attention.
Not that it's not a fascinating world. The treatment of a Neo-Europe in which the Amerindians were not obliterated is a strong one, as is the failure of the European powers to become the world-spanning empires that they did in our world. Similarly, the addition of a second layer of reality in which things don't so much lurk in the shadows as fry the retinas with their awful presence helps distinguish the story with a not-overwhelming set of rules and realities that is both consistent and intriguing.
But again, there's as much to all of this scenery as there is to the storyline, which is four part.
Each of the four tales follows a young person's progress through the war-torn eastern seaboard of North America. The New World is being invaded by a bizarre consortium of bad guys, with proto-Nazi Germans aided Arabic invaders with an assortment of demons and slaves in tow. Bringing these four stories together consumes a lot of pages, and to keep the reader's bearings the author seemed to need to repeat some of the descriptive context material along the way, which I found distracting.
And while I'm a fan of sex, booze and irreverence, I find that this time out the telling of such antics interferes with the story to a certain extent. Which is odd, because Farren certainly managed to make them work to great effect in the DNA Cowboys stories, and with, for instance The Long Orbit.
The tale ends with the climactic battle for control over the region, and simultaneously depicts the psycho/sexual/magical events that bring the four characters together. And while these go a long way in redeeming the story, it's a long slog to get to that point.
I recommend the earlier titles by the same author. They're hard to find in print, however. What the world needs is a soft copy of Farren's work I wish that someone would scan those books and put together a torrent.