Tubby and balding, benign, hesitant and lovable, Howard Baker is one of Michael Frayn's familiar heroes -- the ""collective imagination of the middle classes compressed into one pair of trousers."" Suddenly -- and there's more than one volte-face to come -- he finds himself in a new metropolis where even the cars and buses seem ""alert and hopeful."" His modish friends are there too, all attempting to remake the world while Howard's particular project is designing mountains -- a Matterhorn. But then he is overtaken by queasier thoughts of ambiguity and betrayal -- there can be no New Jerusalem which escapes the ""endemic morbidity of man and the lethal hostility of his environment"" so Howard beats a retreat to a rural backwater for a while, only a short while. At the end he's back asserting his better understanding of himself and fresh possibilities for the world around him. . . . Under the genial surface there's a very genuine concern and Frayn's Utopia is astonishingly alive with the civilized aspirations we all try to retain. In any case, a witty, disarming book where, in spite of brave failures, dreams remain sweet with the hope we wake up with.