What might have been a fleet, compressed retelling of a legend is inflated into a parable and stretched into a story whose over-inflected (read-aloud style) text can't support so much flab. It amounts to a feeble morality tale, embroidered unto diffusion, yet for all the extension it doesn't cohere even fundamentally: King Maha Maha II of the peaceable Kingdom of the Yellow Ants (""just like ants, [the people] built little hills"") is so bored with ""absolute placidity"" and ""monotonous happiness"" that he yields his every principle for a diversion, a mermaid, against the wishes of his good Prime Minister and on the advice of his evil steward. He stoops to murder to capture her and to enslavement to meet her conditions -- that a Thousand Islands be created in the waters of the St. Lawrence; expectably, both he and she are old and withered when the work is done, and the popular affection on which he'd once prided himself (""No more oppression, because I like my subjects too much. No more revolution, because my subjects like me too much"") turns to rebellion. Utopias, like men, would seem to have their imperfections, and like books they're sometimes choked by good intentions. Slim and ephemerally (if liberally) illustrated...and then there are the exigencies of translation. Say anomalous.