The fact that Fuentes’s place in the Mexican literary canon is often debated isn’t surprising. His output is at once prodigious and infuriatingly inconsistent. Maybe the problem is that his politics keep intruding. He writes fiction as if it were an op-ed piece. (…) Toward the end of the novel, Rosario Galván says, “I look back on the people, the places, the situations since the crisis began in January, and I find that there’s no sense of taste in my mouth. . . . My tongue and palate taste of nothing at all.” Regrettably, I sense the same tastelessness. Is this a novel? It reads like an opinion commentary. Not only is it hastily executed, but the attention to character is embarrassing. After reading several letters, it becomes clear that all were crafted by the same hand — Fuentes’s. And the busy plot looks to me like wasted talent.