An eerie, intense and unpleasant fascination characterizes this story of an eight days' voyage of a luxury cruise ship-Dutch and presumably neutral- pressed into service early in the war as a transport ship for refugees, only to be caught in its final days, with the news that Rotterdam had been blasted from the sky. Those eight days are mirrored in a vacuum: on the side, the terrors of escaping Hitler's Europe, with shreds of dignity and hastily gathered portable possessions and memories of past grandeurs and future obliquies; on the other, a thin scattering of Americans, homeward bound, seeking fleeting sensations snatched in passing. There's underlying tragedy, mordaunt humor, unbearable cruelty and always fear as bits of many stories are woven into a kaleidoscope that at the end breaks once more into scattered, meaningless fragments. Morton writes in an oddly introverted, oblique style, even when his matter is distorted by the process. He seeks too often to lavish unsavory details on empty interludes. But his book shows a distinct advance over two earlier books, Asphalt and Desire and The Darkness Below. Of limited appeal.