This time Weldon focuses her lethal spray of darkly comic assessments of the quirky-to-downright nasty in human relationships, on mankind's gloriously galumphing determination to eradicate itself. The Shrapnel Academy--""a shrine to the ethos of military excellence""--honors the memory of Henry Shrapnel, who in 1804 invented the exploding cannonball. The Academy is about to launch a gala weekend. Eventually all the guests for the kickoff dinner will assemble under the direction of the Custodian/Administrator, that antsy iron matron, Joan Lumb, who firmly believes that ""war exists to preserve peace."" Among the guests: an aged General with mistress; a mega-industry exec with family, including a dog named Harry; a dewy young thing, and her lover, who's invented a mini-weapon with a sterling lethality index; a veteran spy (""slightly brain-damaged by various blows to his head over a long period""); two limp academics; and a reporter for a feminist paper, invited by mistake. The guests and their subordinates will be housed in rooms and suites named for the Greats of Eradication--from an ancient Assyrian killer through forerunners of modern technocrat weaponry-wizards. The author will chronicle the giant strides in slaughter accomplished by each and applaud with whoops along the lines of ""Bully for you, Alexander!"" and ""Good on you, cobbert"" While the privileged dine above, down below--in a warren of basement rooms--live black- and brown-skinned servants (their numbers increased, unknown to Lumb, by a multitude of refugee kin). The African butler orders revolution, as well as the killing and serving of pet dog Harry in sandwiches. He is deposed, but the abortive uprising easily triggers into play the assembled deadly know-how of those above. The inevitable Big Bang is truly impressive. An acidulously funny yet stinging commentary on our institutionalized homicidal lunacies, along with Weldon's casual reminder that the Gentle Reader (that's us) ""is as ferocious as anyone else."" Hilarity with a wallop.