ess bulky than Hawaii, and infinitely more exotic, Michener's new novel is primarily an entertainment; it is also a fascinated reconnaissance (Michener spent considerable time here) through Afghanistan as it was in 1946-- a fabled, sometimes forbidden world with many sudden contrasts for any ""ferengi"". Mark Miller of the State Department is assigned to learn just what has happened to-an American girl from Pennsylvania, Ellen Jaspars, who had gone out into the desert to marry an educated Afghan, Nazrullah, who also has a Moslem wife in Kabul. From Kabul, where wolves still prowl by night and natives steal, Miller goes on to Kandahar, then through the Desert of Death to connect with Nazrullah who is trying to modernize his country before the Russians impose their kind of change. Learning from Nazrullah that Ellen had left him, through boredom, Miller goes on to join the aravanserai with which Ellen is now travelling in a further rejection of conventional civilization. At this point Michener's narrative sinks into the sands of desert love (Mark's plein air, starry skied affair with a native girl; Ellen's with the caravan leader, then a German doctor). Still, for most of the book, it has been knowledgeable tour; the scenery is stunning; the customs strange and not so wonderful; and Michener is, as always, a professional storyteller with certified credentials. The Book-of-the-Month adds its safe- conduct; this is the August selection.