Duty is heavier than a mountain, and so to be much regarded; Death lighter than a feather, and therefore to be despised."" This Imperial edict to the Japanese Army and Navy is the basis of the title and theme of this first novel about the war in the Pacific. The central character and interpreter of events is Ensign Montgomery Classen, newly commissioned intelligence officer who arrives at Pearl Harbor in the wake of the attack and is assigned to the translation of captured Japanese documents and the occasional interrogation of high-ranking prisoners. But his job is a bureaucrat's and is more circumscribed by typing instructions than essentials, except for those occasions when he accompanies the island-hopping landing forces, to the Aleutians, the Philippines, finally to Iwo Jima. His part in the war is almost as long as the Pacific war itself, reaching its ironic finality in a kamikaze or suicide attack. The book is crowded with detail: Classen's tender but impossible affair with a Japanese-Korean nurse stationed in Hawaii; the frantic, between-battles partying in Hawaii; the war's inevitable eccentrics-Bulflash, ""the rich man's Ernie Pyle"", Major Begel, Yale historian out to win a wartime name for himself; and various other representatives of humanity's more dramatic qualities. Utterly convincing, if not entirely engaging, The Mountain and the Feather does represent a considerable achievement.