In the tradition of Watership Down, a winsome animal (badgers) epic for adults: a first novel that was, remarkably, self-published when it caught fire in Britain last year, no doubt appealing because of its loud, English-oriented environmental message--and its sentimental storytelling. Based on the real-life slaughter in the mid-70's of thousands of badgers suspected of spreading TB to cattle, the often stirring narrative--which has no dialogue--follows the badgers of the Cilgwyn burrows as they flee across England in search of Elysia, a legendary promised land where they hope to find shelter from the humans intent on exterminating them with poison gas. Not all the badgers' troubles are man-made, however. Raging rivers, sucking quicksand, and slippery mountain slopes slim the badger ranks; and a few bad badgers--including one badgercidal, power-hunger fellow named Kronos--stir up big trouble before Elysia is at last attained. According to the publisher, Clement's a ""keen conservationist and naturalist""; most of his badgers are friendly forest folk, bursting with nobility and courage and good cheer. There are, for example, Bamber, ""a saint among badgers,"" who, despite mortal wounds, warns the Cilgwyn burrows of the human menace; Buckwheat, a badger of ""stately dignity and eminence"" who leads the badgers out of Cilgwyn; and Beaufort, Buckwheat's son and successor, a badger ""august and noble""--you get the belabored idea. And humans don't fare too badly by novel's end either, with animal-rightists and then the press rallying to aid the badgers along to an upbeat destiny. Sometimes pompous, sometimes majestic, with oversized but black-and-white characters; brimming with naturalistic detail and, despite underwritten action sequences, possessing a strong narrative flow that has you rooting hard for these beleaguered critters. Finally, no Watership Down, then, but animal, fable, and adventure lovers will probably create a hearty demand for Clement's simple, vigorous story.