In the near distant future, Gunther “Gun” Ryder is a Ranger for Disney-Windows (D-W) the mega-corporation that has a monopoly on the Earth's energy. Flying in pairs, a Rangers job is to pilot a “rail space vehicle” and collect skin from the PD's (Petey's), massive, elongated bubble universes that periodically appear in groups of three to orbit the moon. The skin has become the new source of currency as all oil was wiped out by petroleum eating bacteria. Earth has been ravaged by the “Three” a decades old war that was fought on all continents and in space leaving many factions struggling to exert power over the planet including Protocols, Fundamentals, the Friends, Sierras, etc. Gun's partner makes a mistake on their last assignment costing the life of another pilot named Shorty. The Rangers return to Outerworld, an orbiting space station converted from a D-W theme park in space that is entwined by a massive organic presence called the Tangle. Gun finds a strange package but every time he abandons it the bundle is returned to his possession. The shuttle lands on Earth in Orlando where he finds his assets have been frozen and his Ranger braid is confiscated as he desperately tries to see Tiffany, his virtual reality girlfriend who appears scantily clad in various styles of lingerie.
Gun, broke and disheartened, travels to his childhood home in Morgan's Ferry, K-T. Along the way he reflects on the bleakness of life on Earth with few animals remaining so that bats, now called wing meat, are eaten for food. Everything he knows about prior life on the planet he has learned from pictures in past issues of National Geographic. Once home he learns his brother Gordon is now a fugitive of the law having escaped prison. His simple-minded cousin Glenn, who runs the family ferry crossing, takes him to see Gordon hiding out locally in a cave. Gordon says he is dying due to the heart installed by his captors, as the new organ fails away from prison. He tells Gun he needs the mysterious package that was left back in Orlando to save his life. Gun reunites with his old flame Donna and he reassures her that with only one more Ranger mission he will earn his place at Pirates of the Universe, an off world residential community. He promises to take her to live in the idyllic space settlement that has all the beauty and comfort the present Earth now lacks. Upon returning to Orlando to try to save his brothers life Gun becomes transfixed with virtual reality Tiffany, thereby missing the package he is seeking. He is given a preliminary hearing in a building shaped like a giant kneeling girl to discuss the administrative hold on his accounts. His finances unresolved, he is instructed to go back home and seek out his brother.
Back in K-T his father Ham's "living" funeral has been drawn through the Medlottery. The ubiquitous package shows up the diner Donna works at. Gun searches for his brother but is followed by Round Man, an agent assigned to keep the Ryder family under surveillance during Gordon's flight from justice. Round Man is killed and his body dumped. Gun now wearing a Sierra uniform found in the package must get back to Orlando for his shuttle flight to Outerworld as this is the last time the Petey's will come back to the solar system. Rumors of new Protocols circulate and mysterious fires are burning. Despite the approaching shuttle launch Gun falls back into old habits and sees Tiffany jeopardizing his chance to catch the last shuttle to Outerworld to connect him for his assignment. Assisted by CT the virtual reality friend of Gordon's, he arrives on Outerworld, meets his partner, and takes part in a strange and risky plan to try to cover up Shorty's death. Things go bad quickly and Gun is amazed at who and what he discovers in the lost and secretive hallways of Outerworld and the Tangle. Bisson's book is very imaginative, at times disturbing, outlandish, funny, and populated with odd life forms called Big Softees (boneless humans), gens (beautiful, provocatively dressed female robots), doggitts (clothes wearing servant dogs that walk on two legs), nanobots (miniature robotic entities that inhabit Outerworld), vertual reality sex partners named Tiffany, and optimized dwarfs (enlarged little people).
This report prepared by David Fletcher