The book combines sections from Burroughs' earlier novels, Naked Lunch, The Soft Machine and The Ticket That Exploded, along with new material, in an attempt to create a new narrative. It is sometimes referred to as a compilation, but this is technically incorrect. Its plot cannot be easily described.
Dead Fingers Talk, like many of Burroughs' works, was controversial upon its release. It was the subject of a scathing review in the Times Literary Supplement that resulted in a war of words between supporters and detractors of the novel (and Burroughs in general) that played out in the magazine's letters page for months.
The book itself is considered one of the rarer of Burroughs' novels, and despite some reprints in the 1970s, has otherwise been out of print for years.