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"All of this might -- and sometimes does -- feel cartoonish in the extreme. But this skeleton of satire is fleshed out with several domestically scaled narratives and masses of hyperrealistic quotidian detail. The overall effect is something like a sleek Vonnegut chassis wrapped in layers of post-millennial Zola. Mr. Wallace's earlier fiction revealed him as a student of literary post-modernists like John Barth and Robert Coover, flirting with metafictional tropes and self-referential narratives. Here, despite the ''Gravity's Rainbow''-plus length and haute science flourishes, Mr. Wallace plays it straight -- that is, almost realistically -- and seems to want to convince us of the authenticity of his vision by sheer weight of accumulated detail. The weight almost crushes the narrative at times -- as when, for example, we are treated to 10 dense pages about the disassembly of a bed, complete with diagrams."

 

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