The last book I reviewed by Chuck Palahniuk ("Choke"), I remarked about how I love non-linear story telling and that I appreciate especially the non-linear works of Mr. Palahniuk. This book I think was the perfect non-linear book. At first though I was let down by the time-line structure. Basically the book is a history of the would-be / could-be messianic character of Buster "Rant" Casey, told through anecdotes from various characters who knew Rant or in some cases technical/governmental advisers. It's not until about halfway through the book that you realize the beginning may be the ending, or the ending may be the middle or the end may be, or the middle may not have ever happened, or any combination thereof. At this point in reading, the book became more of a dark humorous novel to something of weird existentialism.
Basically Buster Casey's mom becomes pregnant with him at the age of 13 by what could be a stranger or maybe the man she later marries, Chet Casey. The rumors through the small town of Middletown, run rampant about the family, so anything could be true. As Buster grows up he leads a not so normal childhood. In order to either perpetuate or dispel myths told to little children, Buster creates some strange scenarios. Take for example the tooth fairy myth.
There is a time in Middletown's history when a squirt gun cost $50 and a candy bar could cost $500. This inflationary period is started by Buster Casey. When walking with his grandmother to church, a strange man tells Buster that he is his real father, and proceeds to tell Buster how he can receive untold wealth. Just after he tells him this, Buster's grandmother is bitten by a black widow spider in her church bonnet and dies. After this Buster and a friend gather empty paint cans from the townsfolk for a recycling drive for scouts. In some of these cans are rare coins worth thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars. When a kid loses a tooth in town Buster would give the the kid a coin in which the kid would replace with the one from a parent. This could would be worth thousands and the parents couldn't say anything, because after all they are the ones that started the whole tooth fairy myth, and asking where the coins came from would be to admit to the lie of the tooth fairy, then Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and so on.
One year, on Halloween, Buster earns his nickname of "Rant." Every year the city puts on a Halloween haunted house and party. In the Haunted house the children dip their hands in cold macaroni and olives while blindfolded and told they are touching guts and eyeballs. (Remember those days of childhood?) Well Buster decides to spend some of his new found fortune and makes a rather large purchase from a local slaughterhouse. This Halloween the eyeballs, guts, blood etc. are real. The kids are covered in cows blood and guts at the party which is at the end of the maze that is the haunted house. The cake becomes covered in blood from eager hands, costumes become darkly stained from kids wiping off the sticky mess. Finally someone finds out that it is all real and a grand pukefest begins that covers the blood covered community center with a fresh layer of puke. Buster is then called Rant. Rant being the sound you make when you puke up when all has been puked.
Now keep in mind this history of Rant is told through the folks that were there. The book has many more such incidences until Rant finally graduates (or bribes his way out of high school) and moves to the city. This is the point where not only do you start to fully realize the non-linear aspect of the story but also a story of a futuristic distopian society in which there is a class war between those that live/work during the day (daytimers) and those that live/work during the night (nighttimers).
The nighttimers are the lower of the class system and the daytimers look down their noses to nighttimers.
Rant invades the nighttimer society not only throwing it in turmoil but also throwing daytimer society into turmoil along with it. Rant takes up with Party Crashers. These are nighttimers that in order to have fun they crash cars into each other, then milk the event by pretending to get out and argue with each other.
The pasttime of party crashing was started by the government when the government was trying to find ways to make traffic move more smoothly. The first thing the government found was the the biggest slowdown in heavy traffic was not the crash but the rubberneck effect of the passersby. They found this by having agents intentionally crash into each other and then record the results. Finding the rubberneck effect was the slowdown they then created DRVR Graphic Traffic Radio. A Radio station that not only told of wrecks but took calls from paramedics, police and rescue personnel and report on the injuries and describing them in full gory detail.
Well Graphic Traffic soon became a reporting station for the thrill seeking Party Crashers. The Party Crashers have rules, you can only crash into other Party Crashers, and to alert that you are Party Crashing you had to decorate your car to that night's theme. Honeymoon nights are when you decorate your car with shaving cream / tin cans etc. and write Just Married on your car, all passengers are dressed as brides, grooms or other members of a bridal party. Other themed nights are Christmas, Thanksgiving and so on.
Here also is where the weirdness begins. Rant, throughout his childhood, has always sought out being bitten by spiders, snakes, rabbits, coyotes, dogs and any other wild critter. Rant then becomes a carrier/spreader of rabies. Rant starts to infect all nighttimers and party crashers with rabies. Soon nighttimers infected with rabies begin infecting daytimers by maybe licking apples to be sold in a store etc.
After starting a major rabies epidemic Rant crashes his car off a cliff, but his body is never found.
This brings us to the beginning of the book and starts a section of the book where the story goes off in an extremely surprising science fiction/existentialistic view that will treat you with a great read. There are rumors that Chuck Palahniuk is writing a sequel to this book and with the cliffhanger/twisting ending I don't doubt this at all.
I'm not going to give too much up about the end of the book other than be ready for time travelling, creating immortals and gods and a never ending rabies epidemic that threatens the world. I think that I've only covered about 30% of this immense volume of work with my summary. So be prepared for fun.