NOIR is the terrifyingly plausible story of a country where a right wing totalitarian government has manipulated the environment and drugged the entire population into a state of altered and submissive consciousness, or "maturation." In order to carry out its sinister repression, the government has also produced a group of perfect killers out of its resistant (defective) subjects, those somehow unaltered, and still conscious of the past.
The narrator is one of these programmed killers, a sort of Frankenstein of psycho-pharmaceutics, though until the end, he ignores this fact. As the novel opens, he is shocked to find himslef being wrongfully arrested for a gruesome murder he has just witnessed, and that everyone around him seems to think he has committed. The police van that takes him away crashes on a hillside, but he is miraculously unharmed. He walks away from the wreck, and begins his frantic quest to figure out why he is wanted for the murder, why his wife and son have aged so much and don't recognize him, who his victim was, and why he cannot see himself, and his newly mongoloid features, reflected in mirrors.
What is actually happening, is that he is a spirit, come back half-dead, and in a state of unrest. Neither heaven not hell will have him until he has resolved the mystery, and eased his conscience. Until then he must wander among the living, a disfigured and destructive monster. His job of retracing the crime and trying to find anyone left who could help him and who is unaffected by the eerie maturation process is made all the more difficult by the federal agents nipping at his heels. With the help of the "noirs'", African immigrants only allowed to come out at night, who form the resistance (and are immune to the maturation process), the narrator will meet his maker and begin his journey toward wholeness.