The book is a science-fiction epic with fantasy and comedy elements. It is similar to nuclear holocaust fiction. It tells the story of the unnamed main character and his best friend Gonzo Lubitsch and their experiences during and after "The Go-Away War", a conflict that reduces the world population to 2 billion. The "go-away bombs" and similar weapons used by the belligerents were designed to simply make anything and anyone subjected to them cease to exist, leaving no carnage or wreckage behind. The weapons, however, produced an unanticipated after effect. The matter that had "gone-away" was still there but merely stripped of the information which formerly differentiated and defined it. This "Stuff", as it's called, floats around the world in great storms and pools in various locations. When it comes into contact with people, a process referred to as "reification" occurs. The Stuff takes the form of whatever those present are thinking about. The results are often horrific. Apparitions, as well as whole individual persons, appear out of nothing. These people become known as "the new". To combat the Stuff, the war's survivors rely upon a substance called "FOX" which is produced by Jorgmond, a corporation, which, for all intents and purposes, functions as the only governmental authority by virtue of the constant and universal need for their product. It is delivered through "the Jorgmund pipe", which snakes around the globe and permits the population to live in a thin ribbon of habitable land banded on either side by wasteland.