This concentrated, strangely mongrel tale begins in an electronic super-bureaucracy that is not too radically expanded from here and now. The nameless hero inherits the post of the State University Library's vanished custodian of books, and thus gains control of the vaults of relic printed matter (superseded by fabulous retrieval systems) as well as entry into the most sophisticated society of the time. Several official years of disillusionment and free browsing at last persuade him to investigate the uncanny aura and tantalizing clues left by his predecessor, cryptic pathmarks to something missing and real. What this thing turns out to be is the mystical tradition of Islam, and by far the greater part of the book is given over to his pilgrimage in Azwan, a painstaking progress toward enlightenment. Here the original futuristic setting is dropped in favor of the timeless style of Middle Eastern culture, impervious and simple as the spirit itself, and that contrast makes the book's point and supplies its tension. The real drama is not of a literary sort and will not be to everyone's taste; but those Who accept Dallas' premise will surely appreciate his unsentimentally accepting way with the ineffable.