Remember the British-accented rabbits of Richard Adams' Watership Down? Well, here a slavishly imitative first-novelist...

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DUNCTON WOOD

Remember the British-accented rabbits of Richard Adams' Watership Down? Well, here a slavishly imitative first-novelist tries to do similar things with British-accented moles--except that Horwood hasn't a fraction of Adams' talent, and this gratuitously massive saga (talk about making a mountain out of a molehill!) rises above dullness only when it's unintentionally hilarious. In fact, what Horwood has done is to lump a handful of hackneyed formulas together (village soap-and-sex, religious quest, Machiavellian politics), simply changing the humans into moles, with no particular projection of the specialness of moledom. So the Duncton Wood mole system is populated with nothing but clichÉs: the system's mad boss-bully Mandrake; his unbearably sweet daughter Rebecca (she loves to lie in the sun, ""with the ecstasy of it in her snout""), whom he love-hates possessively and will eventually rape; his sneaky major-domo Rune, who arouses virtuous Rebecca with his sexy come-ons (""He promised himself, a cold laugh in his voice, 'I'll have her yet' ""); Rebecca's true love Cairn, a pasture mole who gives her great mole-sex (""his talons her exquisite pain, his breathing her sighs, his fur her fur, her warmth his heat,"" etc.) but is killed by Mandrake and Rune; and, above all, Rebecca's third suitor--noble loner Bracken, a fabled Robin-Hoodish mole who (aided by various wise old moles) will take over as top mole after Mandrake is deposed by Rune, a Hitler-like expansionist. But once in charge, his paws bloodied, Bracken concentrates on spiritual things: he has always believed in ""the Stone,"" and after moledom is suddenly struck by plague, drought, fire, and fleas, he sets off on a quest to find the Seventh Stillstone and the Seventh Book--and maybe even to witness the coming of the White Mole. . . . Perhaps this muddy mixture of melodrama and allegory might have somehow engaged if the prose were spare and evocative. Horwood, however, overwrites glutinously: stilted, saccharine dialogue; painfully arch mole-talk (""She must be quite somemole"". . . . ""little-mole-lost""); plus ludicrous scenes of heavy-breathing mole-porn and--we kid you not--moles practicing martial arts, complete with zen jargon. Only in a few sequences of tunnel-digging is there a flicker of mole-reality; otherwise this is just a long, shapeless, derivative book in mole drag--and the appeal is strictly limited to readers with a monumental weakness for both talking animals and bad writing.

Pub Date: April 7, 1980

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: McGraw-Hill

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1980