This novel (it's Russian title is "Generation "P" where "P" stays for Pepsi) became a cult book in Russia not only among intellectuals. It excellently depicts the general atmosphere of confusion, unreality and at the same time ironic sarcasm that was so typical for Russians in the middle of 90's. The transformation of Russia from despotic `socialism' to anarchic `capitalism' can be compared to culture shock known to anyone who lived in a foreign country long enough. First, you are euphoric about that new country, its people and customs, then a month later you start to hate it, then comes the time of confusion and after a year or so you learn how to live with it.
The protagonist of the novel Tatarsky acts a typical young Moscovite using every opportunity to find some firm ground in the confusing world of free economy. He becomes a successful copywriter who compensates his total lack of knowledge in advertising by artful citations from Trout's book "Positioning: a battle for your mind" and inventive `localization' of American commercials. Some time later he moves into the sphere of high politics only to discover that all Russian politicians are nothing but virtual digital images run on TV by his own scripts under strict supervision by American government. Who's behind this conspiracy? Who runs the show? Why people believe it all? No spoilers here but the final answer is both unexpected and "Buddhistic" as all of Pelevin's novels and stories.
It would be a mistake to think that this novel is about confusion in post-perestroka Russia. Pelevin satire aims mostly at American values and way of life and mind manipulation brought by mass media, advertising and globalization. This novel is about transition between a real and tangible world to the virtual reality of brands, politics and Hollywood standards. When you're suddenly trapped in this transition you can either accept it or find solution in zen philosophy. My favorite one is a zen way of watching TV - first you watch it with picture off but sound on, then with picture on but sound off, and only real zen masters watch TV with both picture and sound off.
A note for those who read other Pelevin's book - this is probably his first `real' novel. Pelevin is a master of short stories and his previous novels were usually a collection of stories sewn by a loose plot. "Homo Zapiens" is different.