As in Watchers at the Pond (1961) and Searcher at the Gulf (1970) Russell has abstracted and then cross-sectioned a natural environment -- here a rock island of vegetation on a central African plain -- to examine the dynamic interrelationships of animal and plant life which swarms over and within it. Again Russell utilizes the dramatic chronology of seasons and survival cycles of the many forms: from almost invisible, mainly dormant grasses, to acacias so incredibly adaptive that they leaf only days before the rains begin; the larger mammals, both predators and grazers, to that ""steady world of silence. . . the hidden sucking, biting, burrowing, poisoning, consuming work of the parasites,"" which are killing the wild dog even as it is ripping chunks from a living antelope. Russell observes his creatures both in hordes and on occasion singly, highlighting survival solutions of an old lion, an isolated leopard and baboon, a wild dog leader bitch, a frenzied buck gazelle, and a frieze of little rabbit-like hydraxes, whose sentry duties open and close the book. Now and then Russell in the midst of all this flux of animals occasioned by power, territory, sex or food -- withdraws to a poetic distance (the plain is ""an illusion of life. . . a dream of great deeds""). But generally he never wanders from the raw tension of his subject -- to some life can be truly wonderful; to others truly terrifying.