At the heart of it is Jaz, a brilliant young Sikh American mathematician who has a big Wall Street job; a smart, beautiful blond wife; and is living the high life in Manhattan. Jaz is a cyber-scientist for an investment bank; Lisa is a promising editor at a publishing house. All is future and possibility. Until fate presents them with an autistic son. “Raj arrived, a beautiful little person with olive skin, a mop of black hair, a big Punjabi nose and brown eyes that would have been the delight of Jaz’s life had he been able to see anything human behind them.” The boy is unpredictable, uncontrollable, wild. With the panic of their unfolding discovery — with the fear that Raj is the culmination of so many irreconcilable differences between them — the marriage begins to dissolve. Soon, Lisa is on the verge of a nervous breakdown; Jaz is about to lose his job. In an attempt to weather this gathering catastrophe, the three of them check into a seedy motel in the Mojave, drawn to the Pinnacle Rocks.
There to welcome them is Dawn, an Ashtar Galactic Command Lightworker, who has bottomed out on hard chemicals and rough sex, and survived all of it to become the motel’s manager. There, too, is a British rock star, far from home, stoned on peyote, hanging out by the pool and trying to sort through his senseless life. More walking ghosts wander in from the desert — lost innocents, cave dwellers, bullies in big trucks. But Kunzru deftly weaves in and out of time, in and out of history. So it is that the flotsam of this harsh and pitiless world is joined by flotsam that has occupied that desert for hundreds of years: monks and dreamers, itinerants and scam artists, victims and villains, and creatures that may not be of this world at all.