Nationwide, cities are in trouble. A violent hurricane has swept up the eastern seaboard, overwhelming neglected infrastructure and demolishing public services. Rumored terrorist intrigues of stolen nuclear devices and unleashed plagues have incited multitudes to abandon familiar but now devastated neighborhoods and take to the highways on foot. In the lawless back country predatory gangs exploit hapless refugees and vulnerable communities to traffic in plunder, drugs and sex slaves.
A young comedy team, Banner and Dooley, has just finished a stint in a government effort to win public acceptance of harsh new austerity measures. The project has imbued them with powerful nanobiotic maxnet brain-surfing technology to enable rapid production while fueling their comic inventions of Ant and Grasshopper skits in response to live polling data.
Now Peter Dooley and the duo's manager, Kristin Banner, are swept up in mass exodus from Manhattan. Early in their trek, in violent confrontation in the Holland Tunnel, Kristin narrowly escapes abduction by slavers. During the skirmish Dooley’s persona, overwhelmed by auto-adaptive resources of his internalized nanotech, gives way to Grasshopper, a comically erratic gadfly of all Ant-ward misgivings.
Out among hordes of dispossessed refugees Grasshopper’s exuberant nonchalance magnetically draws crowds of adherents who find in his comedic coping seemingly miraculous powers of healing that soon incite national media obsession. His meteoric notoriety draws political, religious and covert agencies into devious and risky collusion to discredit such “unfortunate national obsession.”
In this wry tale of a reluctant savior, a young technician, Jason Hood, smitten by gentle charms of one Chloe Jernigan, artist, teacher and devotee of Grasshopper, learns that maddening escapades may lead through dimensions of hidden cosmic significance.