PN Review Online Poetry Literary Magazine
Most Read... Peter Rileyon Ted Berrigan
(PN Review 169)
David Herdin Conversation with John Ashbery
(PN Review 99)
Henry Kingon Geoffrey Hill's Oraclau/Oracles
(PN Review 199)
Dannie Abse'In Highgate Woods' and Other Poems
(PN Review 209)
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Next Issue Gregory O’Brien In defence of poetry as an offshore island and art as an undersea mammal or coral reef John Ashbery The Heavy Bear: Delmore Schwartz’s Life Versus his Poetry (1995) Mary Maxwell The Way Grass Grows: Janice Biala, Ford, and Pound’s Pisan Cantos Yves Bonnefoy The Tombs of Ravenna David Hoak Proofs of Love: the last letters of Lota de Macedo Soares to Elizabeth Bishop

This review is taken from PN Review 57, Volume 14 Number 1, September - October 1987.

MISSOURI BREAKS Paul Theroux, O-Zone (Hamish Hamilton) £9.95

Now that a new academic orthodox view, in the wake of ventures by Doris Lessing, Margaret Atwood and others, is proclaiming that science fiction is a women's field, peculiarly available for the exploration of alternative, feminist points of view, Paul Theroux has tried his hand at the genre too and what he has turned in is astonishing in its leaden triteness. At his best, in Saint Jack or Picture Palace or The Mosquito Coast, Theroux has been one of the most rewarding novelists now writing in English. So this departure is doubly disappointing. Time magazine's bestseller list and thousands of sci-fi buffs worldwide will tell a different story, but for my own taste O-Zone is Theroux's dreariest fiction to date.

O-Zone is a futurist initiation fiction, with sub-1984 satire on the ad absurdum abuses in cancerous late capitalism and a preacherly insistence on values, especially the value of resilience and survival. It is a long novel and attempts a great deal, and might have achieved particular effects better if it had been less of a welter.

The O-Zone (Outer Zone) of the title is an area of the United States, formerly Missouri, which at the time of Theroux's narrative (several decades into the future) is deserted and desolate following an 'excursion' of radiation: nuclear waste had been recklessly deposited underground, at a time which sounds suspiciously like our present day, and later rendered the above-ground uninhabitable. Two wealthy brothers, Hooper and Hardy, organize a titillating ...
Searching, please wait... animated waiting image