Multi-dimensional barriers slam down on Earth, splitting the planet into discrete, nigh-impenetrable cages. Nations, geography, and civilizations as we know it crumble, replaced by gang-run city-states. But out of this chaos and violence also come chimeric healers known as Vermittler
, who have the ability to create safe passages through the Barrier. One healer, Celestina, uses these passages and crafts a Treaty between different realms--but on the very day the Treaty is signed, she is assassinated. In the wake of her death, a number of individuals each struggle in the newly connected world. Aaron, a movie producer/gang lord who skin-switched into a white man after being a brutalized black woman, and has never come to terms with his past. Lawanda, who has purposefully reclaimed an ethnicity and culture everyone else would like to forget, who is nominated as a Treaty Ambassador to harm the Treaty but proves to be its greatest advocate. The Major, torn between the mind-bombs placed in his head by his superiors and his love of Lawanda. Ellina, Celestina's apprentice who seeks to finish what she started. And Ray, an actor in Aaron's latest project; no one is sure whether he's just acting like a hero, or actually is one--not even himself. Their struggle to reconcile the Barrier with Earth, and the fractered pieces of Earth with itself, progress through tangled schemes, vision quests and flash-backs.
As a story it is exuberant, irrepressable, far-reaching, very smart and knowledgable but simultanously unashamed of believing whole-heartedly in mystical koans. The characters have a tendency to communicate in epigraphs that don't quite connect with each other, and it took a while for me to get the hang of what is going on. There's a lot of magic floating around, and none of it is explained. But there's so much energy and power and feeling to this tale that I couldn't quite give up on it, even though I had no idea what was going on for the first quarter of the book.