Zinoviev's new book is less gargantuan (how could it not be?) than the enormous The Yawning Heights. And though it has a central metaphor--a crumbling, vandalized, massive sign placed in Moscow's Cosmonaut Square that reads ""Long Live Communism--The Radiant Future of All Mankind""--realism and philosophy are more in evidence than comic allegory. The narrator is the Head of the Department of Theoretical Problems of the Methodology of Scientific Communism at The Human Sciences Institute of the Academy of Sciences. He has an estranged wife (with whom he lives, Moscow housing-arrangements being what they are), two teenaged children, a mother-in-law, and a burning itch to be elected an Academician. But, complicatingly, he also has friends, one who's trying to get an exit visa and another, Anton Zimin, who has written a book which postulates, for instance: ""I believe that the brightest dreams and ideals of mankind, when they are realized in concrete form, produce the most disastrous consequences."" Anton's totally subversive view of Soviet life is focused on the ""horrifying normality"" of it; he is totally non-ideological, hence clear-sighted enough to cause anything he looks at to shrivel up. And the narrator, egged on by his more or less dissident children, finds himself more and more in agreement with his dangerous friends: he never does make Academician, of course, as the complementary forces of his mediocrity and his self-disgust conspire to leave him stranded. The narrator's dilemma and his Russian schlemeil-dom, however, are the least distinctive aspects of this second, smaller, less exuberant Zinoviev book. What counts instead here is the pure play of ideas: weaving in great chunks of both official (canned) and truly biting social philosophy, Zinoviev has created a kind of divorced, muffler-ed intellectual comedy--which will be most clear and satisfying to veterans of The Yawning Heights.