Infinite Jest is the name of a movie said to be so entertaining that anyone who watches it loses all desire to do anything but watch. People die happily, viewing it in endless repetition. The novel Infinite Jest is the story of this addictive entertainment, and in particular how it affects a Boston halfway house for recovering addicts and a nearby tennis academy, whose students have many budding addictions of their own. As the novel unfolds, various individuals, organisations, and governments vie to obtain the master copy of Infinite Jest for their own ends, and the denizens of the tennis school and halfway house are caught up in increasingly desperate efforts to control the movie — as is a cast including burglars, transvestite muggers, scam artists, medical professionals, pro football stars, bookies, drug addicts both active and recovering, film students, political assassins, and one of the most endearingly messed-up families ever captured in a novel.
On this outrageous frame hangs an exploration of essential questions about what entertainment is, and why it has come to so dominate our lives; about how our desire for entertainment interacts with our need to connect with other humans; and about what the pleasures we choose say about who we are. Equal parts philosophical quest and screwball comedy, Infinite Jest bends every rule of fiction without sacrificing for a moment its own entertainment value. The huge cast and multilevel narrative serve a story that accelerates to a breathtaking, heartbreaking, unfogettable conclusion. It is an exuberant, uniquely American exploration of the passions that make us human and one of those rare books that renew the very idea of what a novel can do.