Alfons Materna is the civilian counterpart of Kirst's famous soldier--independent, self-igniting, Gunner Asch (Revolt of.... Return of.... What Became of...) and a figure equally capable of attracting and holding a wide readership. Materna, a successful peasant farmer of Eastern Prussia in the village of Maulen close to the Polish border, began his war on the Nazi regime in 1932, when a senseless Home Guard exercise left his youngest son dead by a grenade that might have been unknowingly hurled by his eldest brother. Materna's self-sufficient farm provides the base for his operations, which are described up to the point when Russian tanks are about to move in on Maulen. Materna's small special force, drawn from the young, the adolescent, the old, the disenchanted and the proscribed are the attractive misfits of any rigidly organized, heavily authoritarian rule. Like Gunner Asch, Materna's strategy is to undermine from within; his pretended cooperation continually confounds his brownshirt adversaries who fail to prevent Materna's Jewish underground railroad, his sabotage efforts, his mockery disguised in flattening flattery. Kirst, as he has in other novels, describes the practical steps up the hierarchy of corruption and Nazi mass self-delusion through a political/military satire in which the acknowledged, tragic reality is underscored by broad comic relief, effectively carrying his critical purpose in the most universally attractive package--serious entertainment.