Egan introduces us to a very memorable bevy of characters, especially Sasha, a kleptomaniac and Bennie, a music producer. Two stories are devoted to an actress named Kitty Jackson, who we first see as an aging actress who's career is on the skids and then as a 19 year old when her career is a fresh and beautiful new blossom. Other characters come in and out of the book--musicians, groupies, theatrical types, and all sorts of hangers on. A character who has a relatively minor role in one story becomes a major figure in another. This technique reminds me of Bob Altman's film, Short Cuts, which adapted Raymond Carver's short stories along similar lines.
The "goon squad" in the story is clearly a metaphor for the passing of time, and Egan's handling of time throughout the novel is distinct and original. We read it as we experience the memories of our own lives, linking disparate things, remembering things that happened long ago with the exactitude of things that are still happening. We can leave it to academics to determine whether this is a novel or a collection of short stories. What matters is that the book engages us from beginning to end and also that it gives us a vivid portrait of life in the USA at this time in history, especially for Egan's generation, born in the late 60s and shaped by the many currents of the music industry that it uses as another kind of metaphor to provide a kind of disjointed sound tract to accompany the lives of the characters.
This is the first Egan novel I've read, but she's already a well established writer and this one will push her up there with the best American novelists now writing. She writes with a kind of poetic exactitude, and lyrical rhythm. I can't recommend it too highly.