Jason Taverner is a famous entertainer, instantly recognizable worldwide for his long recording career and hugely successful TV show. And then, suddenly, he's not. All of his identification documents have gone missing, nobody recognizes him or the name of his show, and, most disturbingly, there isn't even a record of his birth. Taverner has simply ceased to have ever been, in one of the worst possible times and places to do so.
It might help to note that this book was originally published in 1974, written, I would guess, the year before, just a few years after the shootings at Kent State and the massive student uprising that followed it. It filled in some blanks in the underlying premise, that there had been a civil war between college students and the American government, leading to the current, restrictive police regime, blanks that I imagine somebody actually reading this book in 1974 wouldn't need filled in. But that really is backdrop. It's easy enough to understand the central premise (that losing IDs can be catastrophic, and in unexpected ways) without that bit of background information.
Taverner floats from one mostly unlikeable, damaged person to the next. And since I never felt like I was supposed to like them, I was able to enjoy their personalities and conversations as presented. That said, much of the book is made up of conversations, and there's little in the way of true excitement until the end. But they're very absorbing and well-written conversations, and the action at the end is riveting.
But there are a few plotholes here. Perhaps the most noticeable one happens at the very beginning of the book. Just as we've gotten a decent introduction to Taverner's life and lifestyle, he's suddenly attacked by a former lover. And then... nothing. His ex, the attack, and any consequences related to it are never really mentioned again. I kept waiting for her to pop up again, to have some meaning in the overall narrative. She doesn't. I also felt like the ending was a bit neat, presented in the style of a "where are they now" clip show at the end of the movie, and it didn't feel like it meshed with the rest of the book. I think I might have been happier with the book as a whole if it had ended before the epilogue.