Ted Rockson is wandering the deserts of Utah after being forced to crashland his stolen MIG from the last book. He soon gets captured by a patrol of KGB and taken to an abandoned missile silo. There the sadistic KGB Lt. Lev Strelsky is going to torture him. Rock manages to persuade him to a game of chess. If he loses then he will tell Strelsky the location of Century City. Strelsky is a chess champion and his ego agrees. Only he lose in six moves. Strelsky accuses Rock of cheating and starts to drag him behind his jeep. Just then a huge storm appears and twin tornadoes sweep up Rockson.
He lands outside of Salt Lake City in 1989 just a few days before the nuclear war of September 11, 1989. Only this Salt Lake City is different from our city. The inhabitants are all brainwashed with elevator muzik that is pumped over everywhere. The food is also drugged. Armed men called Rooks with mirror visored helmets and carrying flamethrowers and assault rifles. In this reality the Chessman has taken over the city. A Soviet chess player who was in town ten years ago and caught cheating. He and his followers then took over the city and erected a force field around it. Now he rules with an iron fist a drugged out populace.
Rockson is picked up as a homeless man and brought to the Rooks headquarters. There he is identified as Theodore Rockman C.P.A. an upstanding citizen. They give him a good old session of brainwashing with the muzik and drugged food. Next day his wife Kim comes to pick him up and take him back home. There he finds his nagging wife and two children who are never described in the entire book. He watches the popular game show Twenty Questions which involve torturing some homeless guy until he answers the question “What are you for?” with “Social order.”
After a weird evening and hot sex with Kim he is off to work in the morning at his firm. There he finds that Rona is his secretary and he is having an affair with her. Well he goes nuts at work and leaves but instead of home he goes to a seedy part of town and uses half the $8 lunch money for a dive hotel room. Then the other $4 for a roll with a prostitute. Wow what a deal. Later he goes to a bar and with drink and rock and roll music gets his memory back. He hooks up with the local resistance who are the homeless. Seems eating old food from the trash is OK since the drugs are no longer effective. Rock breaks into a gun store and modifies an Uzi with an anti-air gun for a .50 caliber Uzi and mows down hordes of Rooks and Knights on horseback.
Well with his newfound homeless friends he assaults the Chessman’s HQ and overcoming his mental powers finds out he is Strelsky who also has a counterpart in this past. Strelsky is killed and the people are freed from the muzik. Unfortunately WWIII starts and they must escape the city. Rock steals a cab and with Kim his kids and Barrelman the leader of the homeless manage to make it to the time door and escape back to 2092. First Rock goes through some new age mumbo-jumbo of seeing the universe and all his past lives. Then in the future Kim, Barrelman and the kids disappear. He finds the clothes he was wearing have also disappeared. It was all a dream. He strips some clothes from the dead KGB and heads off for Century City.
Well this has got to be the most bizarre story for even this series. In a way it’s bizarreness makes it my favorite of the series. It is the best remembered of the books and definitely held my interest. I lived in Utah and Nevada during the eighties and visited Salt Lake on numerous occasions. Had some good restaurants but never seen a force field around the city or the Chessman. The Chessman seems to run a poor excuse for an economy. Rock is a C.P.A. with a big office and a secretary but still is poor. They live in a run down apartment with tacky art and drive an old Gremlin. The authors get a chance to try for some social commentary about the homeless and the heartless materialism of society. The pursuit of inane game shows and sitcoms. It is all lost in such a goofy, weird story.
Oh and even as a C.P.A. he still gets the women. He’s married to Kim who is even a bigger annoying, nagging moonbat then the one from Rock’s time. Still the Chessman is a bit of a sexist and conditions obedience in woman. As Kim says to Rock, “Just lie back, dear. Remember what the Chessman says about sex. it’s the woman’s job. After a hard day, the best thing is a blow job.” Naturally Rock is OK with this but does later take charge to Kim’s delight. And of course he is cheating on her with Rona in this alternate timeline. Not to mention the $4 prostitute. Don’t remember $4 going so far back then. Definitely a classic.