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ranters and ravers

Jim Crace's ‘The Pesthouse’: It's the End of the World. Again.

Courtesy of Nan A. Talese

Apocalypse is hot these days, with Cormac McCarthy's The Road enjoying a recent stream of Oprah-sanctioned publicity and 28 Weeks Later earning critical plaudits and Iraq-war-metaphor analysis. Now Jim Crace's The Pesthouse is the dystopian fantasy to beat: In a future America with boiling lakes, toxic air, and marauding gangsters, a man and a woman try to outrun the onset of winter to get to the East Coast, where boats can take them to Europe and to safety. Love it or hate it, the book's established its place on the radar: It even has the New York Times disagreeing with itself. —Marc Tracy

Rave: "The book ends in a pastoral lighting that could be sentimental, except that the travelers have been put through so many aching horrors that they — and we — have earned the right to hope. Mr. Crace is the coldest of writers, and the tenderest." —Richard Eder, New York Times

Rant: "You can't help wanting more from art, and from Jim Crace. You can't help wanting something new, something beyond an inspired melding of science fiction and the horrors we ourselves dream up in the dead of night. It's disorienting and a little dispiriting — like some sort of odd déjà vu — to read about the hell of the future and feel that we've been there before." —Francine Prose, New York Times Book Review