In post-NK3 Los Angeles, a sixty-foot-tall fence surrounds the hills where the rich used to live, but the mansions have been taken over by those with the only power that matters: the power of memory. Life for the community inside the Fence, ruled over by the new aristocracy, the Verified, is a perpetual party. Outside the Fence, in downtown Los Angeles, the Verified use an invented mythology to keep control over the mindless and nameless Drifters, Shamblers, and Bottle Bangers who serve the gift economy until no longer needed. The ruler, Chief, takes his guidance from gigantic effigies of a man and a woman in the heart of the Fence. They warn him of trouble to come, but who is the person to watch: the elusive Eckmann, holed up with the last functioning plane at LAX; Shannon Squier, the chisel-wielding pop superstar from the pre-NK3 world, pulled from the shambling masses; a treacherous member of Chief's inner circle; or Hopper, the uncommon Drifter compelled by an inner voice to search for a wife whose name and face he doesn't know? Each threatens to upset the delicate power balance in this fragile world.
In deliciously dark prose, Tolkin winds a noose-like plot around this melee of despots, prophets, and rebels as they struggle for command and survival in a town that still manages to exert a magnetic force, even as a ruined husk.
"Michael Tolkin is a soothsayer, an early reader of our psychological topography, and his new book, NK3, is either the last great Hollywood novel or the first great book of Burning Man . . . A strangely terrifying if celebratory novel of remnants, fragments, the nag of one's inner voice, and dim reminders of the dissolve that has become America."--A. M. Homes, Vanity Fair
"Michael Tolkin is one of America's greatest living novelists--and way too underappreciated . . . [NK3] is an astonishing tour de force, in which he's created a language for a people who have lost the foundations of language--memory, history, identity--after what seems to be a North Korean chemical weapons attack that got out of control . . . The deep sadness conveyed by the book, sadness for the traumatic loss, as well as the joy in the language and in the characters' struggle, struck me as something like a psalm. NK3 is a great novel."--Lee Smith, Weekly Standard
"An intricate and cleverly constructed account of the aftermath of a North Korean chemical attack; the NK3 of the title has entirely destroyed its victims' memories and has vastly diminished their capacity to reason. This puts the novel's characters in the same position as the readers of all dystopian fiction: they're left to try to piece together not a whodunnit but a howdidithappen."--Jill Lepore, New Yorker
"[An] ingenious dystopian thriller . . . Clever entertainment about a disaster that won't happen."--Patrick Anderson, Washington Post
"An original and absorbing novel--written in clear, rich prose--that imagines a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles where dystopia is fine-tuned to our present turmoil . . . It is hard to imagine a better writer to conjure a vision of a demolished and encaged Los Angeles than Tolkin. As a filmmaker and novelist, Tolkin has been well tuned to the culture and zeitgeist of this most illusory and decadent of American cities . . . NK3 harkens back to a classic SF tradition while feeling fresh and modern. Tolkin creates memorable images and searing moments and peppers the text with sly, dark humor, all while raising provocative social and political issues. Like the novels of China Mi ville or Philip K. Dick, the fantastic is combined with a lucid social conscience . . . NK3 is nightmare and satire, thriller and warning. Crafted by a master storyteller, it is a haunting parable about civilization marching forward, while forgetting what it leaves behind."--Alci Rengifo, Los Angeles Review of Books
"Darkly satirical . . . NK3 presents a kaleidoscopic portrait of postapocalyptic La La Land . . . with flashes of antic wit and honestly earned compassion . . . Names like 'AutoZone, ' 'Go Bruins' and 'Madeinusa' . . . remind one of how easily people are turned into commodities, how slippery the grip on identity can be, how there's always someone ready to set themself up as the savior of civilization. Just because someone is known as 'Chief' doesn't mean he can keep his followers fed forever. At a time of alternative facts and a bend toward cultural amnesia, NK3 feels especially prescient."--Michael Berry, San Francisco Chronicle
"I've read five dystopian novels published this year . . . A comic thriller devoted to the destruction of Hollywood as well as the exploitation of Hollywood tropes, [NK3 is] the most fun of the bunch . . . Tolkin, the author of The Player, goes about his demolition of L.A. real estate and mores gleefully, and his point is that beneath a delicate veneer of civilization, the city is nasty and brutish and life is short."--Christian Lorentzen, New York Magazine
"In this brave, brilliant and barely speculative novel, the population of Greater Los Angeles is wracked with varying degrees of amnesia, the social order is switched to favor those with technical skill, and expendable Drifters and Shamblers are dumped in the desert to die a 'gentler' death once they've outlived their usefulness. Part cartoon and part allegory, it's tempting to call NK3 the first book of the Trump era."--Chris Kraus, author of I Love Dick and Summer of Hate
"A dire tale that examines the role memory plays in thriving versus merely surviving in the post-apocalyptic Los Angeles of the near future."--Michael Silverblatt, KCRW "Bookworm"
"Tolkin's mad world of imbeciles and cast-offs bears a cruel resemblance to our own, yet he approaches it kindly, with mournful pity. An inspired speculative satire, wickedly stimulating but soulful, too. It got to me, this novel. I just can't shake it."--Walter Kirn, author of Up in The Air and Blood Will Out
"Hollywood has long been the dysfunctional muse for an impressive roll call of writers who sighted the fabled city in their crosshairs. Intimidating names ranging from Dorothy Parker, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Nathanael West to Bruce Wagner have taken their turn and left a mark. Add to that list Michael Tolkin . . . In a story line which is at once both fanciful and prophetic, Tolkin weaves an episode that could be too close to the truth for comfort."--David Breithaupt, Los Angeles Review of Books
"There is an oft quoted line in Milan Kundera's Book of Laughter and Forgetting which proposes that 'the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.' This is precisely the moral universe that preoccupies NK3. We are in danger of forgetting how to resist. NK3 lives on many levels: as dystopian Los Angeles thriller, as metaphor for a culture shredding its own relationship to fact and memory, and as razor-wire meditation on the loss of the self--that constantly murmuring life-force tugging us hither and yon from within and ever evading our grasp. As an existentialist horror story, NK3 tautly proposes a future that now, in post-factual America, seems closer than ever. Michael Tolkin's map of Los Angeles gains more and more detail with each novel, because there is no more modern, chaotic and beautiful place in which to lose yourself and your history to winds, fires, and opulent decay."--Jon Robin Baitz, the writer of Other Desert Cities
"Award-winning writer, director, and producer Tolkin presents a postapocalyptic examination of nearfuture Los Angeles . . . Tolkin's use of language evokes in the reader the feelings of confusion and mistrust experienced by the survivors. Readers looking for something reminiscent of World War Z and Cory Doctorow's work should give this one a try."--Booklist
"The strength of the best sci-fi is the light it shines on the present. Tolkin's gift is not just his la mode nod to our impending sense of doom, but his ability to seductively stylise the dark underbelly a lot of us already live in."--Readings (Australia)