By Jeff Jensen
Updated May 14, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

Pretend, for a moment, that while driving to your own suicide, you got in an accident that left you decapitated and, uh, dead. But during your funeral, you came back to life, albeit with no working organs and a crudely re-attached head. Wouldn’t that suck? Apparently not! Everett’s often laugh-out-loud, high-concept novel squeezes its undead hero, Ted Street, for every Big Theme he’s worth. Is living defined medically, legally, or spiritually? Can we truly discern the natural from the supernatural? And aren’t we all walking, talking corpses? ”Desert” pulses with rich, thoughtful life when Everett works his premises within Ted’s family, less so when he puts Ted through plot paces steeped in religious satire by turns inspired and tired. A military program trying to clone Jesus? Wild. Yet another sexually abusive Christian cult leader? Talk about flogging a dead corpse.