Total Oblivion

"A fast-paced, suspenseful dystopian picaresque, part Huck Finn and part bizarro-world Swiss Family Robinson..."



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Long-listed for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award and finalist for the Crawford Award. Title short story listed for the 2000 O. Henry award.

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Total Oblivion, More or Less


From Bantam Spectra/Ballantine
Released November 24, 2009
ISBN-10: 0-553-59254-8
ISBN-13: 978-0-553-59254-2

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In the summer between Macy Palmer’s junior and senior year of high school in Minnesota, Scythians, Thracians, and other ancient European tribes invade the Midwest. America becomes a ravaged land where modern technology barely works, a strange plague is rampant, and American citizens flee for their lives. Many end up doing what the Empire-which comes equally out of nowhere to keep the peace-tells them to do. Macy and her family find themselves torn from their ordinary lives and in a refugee camp just outside of Minneapolis. They end up making a desperate journey down the Mississippi River, which has mutated into a dangerous waterway.

Macy loves her dysfunctional family but has to make difficult decisions about them during almost unbearable times. Through her journeys, she finds medieval skyscrapers and fast food joints run by horse lords, befriends an enigmatic submarine captain on the river, and stumbles onto bizarre invasions of various sorts. None of those wonders, however, challenge her as much as just growing up, and keeping her compassion intact while doing so.


“Macy’s adventure is engaging and absorbing, but it doesn’t make much sense. For those conditioned to the logic of classic science fiction, “Total Oblivion’s” rule-breaking can be frustrating. But readers who are willing to let go will be swept away.” -Los Angeles Times

“DeNiro’s novel moves the reader along at a lively and crazy pace, engaging interest in Macy and her fate while making subtle references to the sad past and giving frightening glimpses of a scarier future.” -Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Unsettling and never boring, ‘Total Oblivion’ should interest older teens who are hooked on vampires and other dark fantasies. They’ll cheer for Macy, whose courage increases as she does dangerous things she never dreamed of when she was in her safe high school in St. Paul — before everything collapsed.” -St. Paul Pioneer Press

“There aren’t many writers who take weirdness as seriously as DeNiro does, and fewer still who can extract so much grounded emotion, gut-dropping humor, and rousing adventure from it. A dizzying display of often brilliant, always strange, and definitely unique storytelling.”—Booklist, starred review

“A fast-paced, suspenseful dystopian picaresque, part Huck Finn and part bizarro-world Swiss Family Robinson.” -Kirkus Reviews

“Macy narrates this story in a delightful, lighthearted voice that stiffens only a little as she realizes that she will never have a senior year.” -Denver Post

“Chock-a-block with adventure, suspense, and surprise. Apocalyptic family values, too! Recommended to all.”—Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club

“Total Oblivion, More or Less is Alan DeNiro’s excellent debut novel, and an inversion and analysis of genre tropes…it is unwilling to do the expected. This is the very rare novel that satisfies on a multiple of levels.” -Bookpage

“Wow! This is a wonderfully weird, fun, touching, heartfelt and memorable novel. Imagine if Huck Finn had been living in post-apocalypse America, and Terry Pratchett had been promoted to God, with George Saunders as his avenging angel. The world of this book is a little like that. In this case, the role of Huck is played by a sixteen-year-old-girl named Macy, whose smart, mordant, utterly convincing voice grounds our journey through this crazy landscape. Macy reminds us that no matter how surreal things get, there is still resilience and hope in the human spirit. Alan DeNiro has created a hilarious and terrifying dream world, but his real genius is that he’s peopled it with characters we come to love.”—Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply, You Remind Me of Me, and National Book Award finalist Among the Missing

“In Total Oblivion, More or Less, Alan DeNiro lifts the modern family drama and sets it down in the middle of a wildly inventive post apocalyptic landscape. The insulated life of Middle America may be a thing of the past, but DeNiro finds a way to lead readers into a future full of humor, imagination, and hope.”—Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief

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