The Omega Force, by Rick Moody

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Rick Moody's isn't usually the first name that people mention when discussing great American writers – it might not even feature in the first 10 (or anywhere else if you're Dale Peck, the American critic who gained notoriety by calling Moody "the worst writer of his generation"). Anyone who's read and enjoyed Moody's first novel, Garden State, though, or Demonology, a surprising collection of stories, may have suspected there was something really special to come. This collection of three novellas about the paranoia infecting modern-day US culture more than bears this out. Or at least, one of the three does.

"The Albertine Notes" is an extraordinary piece of writing. Science fiction in the spirit of William Gibson, but closer to the style of Philip K Dick, it tells of a journalist writing about a drug called Albertine that is being heavily used in the aftermath of a nuclear explosion in New York, and lets its users relive memories. Albertine is surely a reference to Proust's character of the same name, and this story is a profound, Proustian meditation on loss. Characters seek solace in dreams of being able to change the past, visions of being able to tell the future, and violent pleasures from giant sex machines that lean towards the world of William Burroughs.

The title story is less successful, but still enjoyable. A wealthy alcoholic called Dr Van Deusen wanders round an island off the coast of mainland USA, stringing together his drunken observations, dumb patriotism and the content of a paperback he finds after a night's drinking, to concoct a conspiracy theory. He is a fool, a gutless one at that, but he never quite becomes a stooge for authorial politicking.

"K&K" is probably something to skip: a predictable story of office politics, delusion and paranoia, it reads rather like a false start to whichever thoughts developed into "The Albertine Notes".