Table of Contents and Synopsis:

Prologue: Metal Machine Music

Part 2: Songs From A Room

Chapter 1 – Bird on a Wire

Chapter 2 – Story of Isaac

Chapter 3 – A Bunch of Lonesome Heroes

Chapter 4 – The Partisan

Chapter 5 – Seems So Long Ago, Nancy

Chapter 6 – The Old Revolution

Chapter 7 – The Butcher

Chapter 8 – You Know Who I Am

Chapter 9 – Lady Midnight

Chapter 10 – Tonight Will Be Fine

Part 3: Trompe Le Monde

Chapter 1 – Trompe Le Monde

Chapter 2 – Planet of Sound

Chapter 3 – Alec Eiffel

Chapter 4 – The Sad Punk

Chapter 5 – Head On

Chapter 6 – U-Mass

Chapter 7 – Palace of the Brine

Chapter 8 – Letter to Memphis

Chapter 9 – Bird Dream of the Olympus Mons

Chapter 10 – Space (I Believe In)

Chapter 11 – Subbachultcha

Chapter 12 – Distance Equals Rate Times Time

Chapter 13 – Lovely Day

Chapter 14 – Motorway to Roswell

Chapter 15 – The Navajo Know

Part 4: Candy Apple Gray

Chapter 1 – Crystal

Chapter 2 – Don’t Want to Know If You Are Lonely

Chapter 3 – I Don’t Know For Sure

Chapter 4 – Sorry Somehow

Chapter 5 – Too Far Down

Chapter 6 – Hardly Getting Over It

Chapter 7 – Dead Set on Destruction

Chapter 8 – Eiffel Tower High

Chapter 9 – No Promises Have I made

Chapter 10 – All This I’ve Done For You

Part 5: Jerusalem

           Isaac Palmer, a Canadian drifter/backpacker, is in Australia when he wakes up next to a dead woman and a pile of money.  Panicking, he flees the scene and rushes to the airport and hops on a plane. Knowing the police will soon be on his trail, he chooses Japan as a country large enough to lay low in boards a plane. 

Arriving in Tokyo where he doesn’t know a soul, he falls in with a group of college kids camped out in front of Tokyo Station. Rock ‘n’ roll groupies, they listen to CDs from vast music libraries by day and watch indie bands in live houses at night. After his first night out with his new friends, Palmer returns to their pad to find intruders have entered.  Fleeing the scene again, Palmer heads to Osaka.

Over a few uneventful but fear-fraught months, during which he picks up passable Japanese and finds work in a very small night club that hosts an endless supply of indie bands, Palmer relaxes enough to begin to reassemble his life and forms a band of his own. To hide his identity in public appearances, he plays with a mask on and gets his bandmates to do the same. He also experiences a broad cross-section of Japan’s vibrant indie band scene, and the book is peppered with descriptions of the bands and their live shows.

Palmer forms a relationship with a mysterious Japanese woman he nicknames Sheherezade. A budding rock star, he also enjoys a series of casual relationships, but is also haunted by images of the dead woman in Sydney.

Despite his many affairs, the one person he’s serious about turns out to be Sheherezade. When she finally disappears from his life mysterious things begin to happen, and he gets word of people he has slept with since arriving in Japan coming to horrible ends—is this a repetition of what happened in Australia?  Is he the one committing the murders? Why can’t he remember anything?

With his sanity fraying, there’s another disaster—fans have taken a picture of him unmasked and posted it to their fansite. He decides to break into their apartment and delete the material, but is discovered and in a blind rage destroys the apartment and its inhabitants. With his world now officially crumbled, he decides to resolve the situation; but this time instead of fleeing he sends a signal to his pursuers and is apprehended.

The final section of the book—told in a suggestive collection of dream-like fantasies—follows Palmer’s deprogramming from a period of heightened paranoid dementia through a series of surreal visions that hint that Isaac’s rich fantasy life has led him to believe that he is an assassin with Sheherezade as his minder; Isaac eventually recovers and is returned to his former life in the US Midwest where, in a daze, he is reunited with his wife and young son.