A mostly compelling animal fantasy, in the tradition of The Incredible Journey and Watership Down, written by a professor of herpetology. A group of escapees from a New York City pet shop travel across the US, starting in the subways, where they confront a band of white crocodiles, all the way to the San Diego Zoo, which they imagine is a paradise. The heroine of the book is a 30-foot Burmese python, Sherahi, who enters life as a sacred pagoda snake, is captured, sold to an exotic dancer, and lands in the shop of an unscrupulous pet dealer. The plot is thickened by the python's ability to read minds and to send telepathic messages to both human and beast. When one of Sherahi's animal friends from the pet shop (who include a macaw, a langur, a coati-mundi, and a pit viper) accidentally kills the kindly janitor, the only decent human in the book, it serves as an expedient to propel the animals toward San Diego. Long taxonomic discourses and descriptions of such specialized reptilian functions as scrying, fnasting, and wurping, otherwise pedantic, demonstrate the snake's mental superiority on countless occasions. The animals finally reach the zoo, after much adventure, only to discover that for pythons, at least, it is no paradise. But Sherahi, always lucky, has a reunion with her old exotic dancer, now resident in Hollywood, and they return together to Burma to shoot a film. There Sherahi manages to escape back to her pagoda. Contrived, and often overly slithery; but an enjoyable entertainment, and a must for devoted reptile-lovers.