Beginning with its title, Tlooth is a novel of enigmas and ambiguities. It is mostly nonsense, but quite inventive and entertaining nonsense with a sly purpose behind it.
The story begins in Jacksongrad, a detention camp of sorts in Russia. (It is described as being in "South Siberia," but various clues place it in what is now Uzbekistan or one of the neighboring republics.) The narrator, a prisoner in the camp who works as a dental assistant, is a former concert violinist whose left hand has been mutilated by a doctor, a fellow prisoner, named Evelyn Roak. The (thus far unnamed) narrator has vowed revenge against Dr. Roak, leading to a bizarre series of acts and events, eventually leaving the camp and traveling to Afghanistan, India, Italy, Morocco, and France.
The novel is built around wild inventions and clever deceptions. The author creates religions, diseases, musical forms, medical disciplines, folk practices, and industries--each absurd, yet described with enough sincerity to test the reader's credibility. There are also codes, puzzles, and scrambled text designed, I would supposed, to examine how we process incomplete or garbled information. At one point, for example, the narrator is commissioned to draft a scenario for a pornographic movie. The draft is being recited orally at the same time that other events are happening, with the result that events are commingled. Then, at the steamiest point in the scenario, the narrator becomes ill and begins to transpose letters. If you want to know who is doing what to whom, you bust me ready do tecipher lords thike wese.
Tlooth is a book that will appeal to those who enjoy experimental fiction, who don't mind having a mirror held up to their preconceptions, and who aren't overly disturbed by a few grisly depictions of medical procedures and sexual violence.