The publishers are doing an unusual thing in presenting this new novel by Dr. Cronin to an expectant public. They are -- two months ahead of publication date -- suggesting that customers place orders now. They define the book as ""the story of young Robert Shannon striving against staggering odds to salvage his own soul"". Perhaps -- because he is striving to save his own soul, this book seems to me to lack the vital spark that made The Citadel -- and the struggle against prejudice to save other lives, and The Keys of the Kingdom -- and the struggle to salvage other souls -- books that gave their readers a certain exhiliration and inspiration. Robert Shannon's story has been told before:- an orphan, brought from an alien land to the home in Scotland that his mother deserted, there to find suspicion, hostility, hatred of the Catholicism in which he had brought up, lack of sympathy with the slowly budding scientific aspirations. How he faces -- or fails to face -- these problems is the story of ""the green years"". Cronin has a faculty for instilling warmth and interest into bare bone facts, which lift this above the level of its not too original plot; but this does not measure up to his best work. In a season like this, however, with its paucity of popular fiction titles, a new Cronir is a sure best seller.