The ultimate misadventure

GETTING BACK By William Dietrich Warner Books 370 pp., $24.95

Years ago, in my younger days, I'd wander into the wet woods of the Northwest and get miserably lost. I'd cut spears to defend myself against the Sasquatch, build wigwams, and wage wars against alder trees and salal bushes. But I was never really lost, always within a few hundred yards of home, always a scream away from Mom.

But what if getting lost were real, what if life became so dull that to really live, people had to shake hands with terror?

Coming next month, William Dietrich, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist-turned-fiction writer, will release "Getting Back." This thriller envisions a corrupt and numbing future where individuality has melted away and life is as boring as beige. People yawn through their days, droning away for United Corporations (UC), a corporate monster that sucks the life out of the masses.

Well, Daniel Dyson has had enough of this. He meets a svelte vixen named Raven, who is just as fed up with her hollow life as he is. She introduces him to the mysterious Outback Adventure, a travel company specializing in the unknown, which claims to help clients find meaning in life. All you have to do is dump a year's salary, trust some guy with slick hair, and pack a ditty bag with enough stuff to last you on your - get this - trek across Australia, where you'll get picked up on the other side.

Australia is a wasteland emptied of its inhabitants by a long-since departed plague. Now it's a raw land waiting for soul-searching wanderers. Little does anyone know that UC is dropping not only hollow, unfulfilled tourists, but also convicts - better known as "the morally impaired." It's a reservoir of the deranged and shallow, those that didn't fit into UC's master plan.

This book's a slam against corporate America, but it's an engaging read with considerable depth and more twists than a cruller. A whiny love triangle and relentless talk of human emptiness are bothersome, but the ingenuity and survivalist mentality of the characters will make you sneak peeks at this one during dinner.

*Lane Hartill is on the Monitor staff.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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