If Charles Dickens has written speculative fiction, he might have created a novel as intricate, passionate, and lacerating as Thomas M. Disch's visionary portrait of the underbelly of 21st-century New York City. The residents of the public housing project at 334 East 11th Street live in a world of rationed babied and sanctioned drug addiction. Real food is displayed in museums and hospital attendants moonlight as body-snatchers.
Nimbly hopscotching backward and forward in time, Disch charts the shifting relationships between this world's inheritors: an aging matriarch who falls in love with her young social worker; a widow seeking comfort from the spirit of her dead husband; a privileged preteen choreographing the perfectly gratuitous murder. Poisonously funny, piercingly authentic, 344 is a masterpiece of social realism disguised as science fiction.