This story of the growth of the Franciscan mission system in California has a few bloodthirsty Apaches offstage, but mainly it is as flat as an all-tortilla supper. It is more of a dual biography than a novel. The two main characters, who rarely meet, are Father Junipero Serra and Colonel Juan Bautista de Anza. We follow Serra's many years of work on Majorca, during which his great dream is to save souls in the New World. At 56 he is sent to Mexico City, where the Viceroy entrusts him with setting up missions for Indians in New California. Serra sets out fanatically to baptize savages and civilize them at the expense of Spanish colonists. His strongest adversaries are the territory's military governors. When Colonel Anza brings a great column of settlers overland, on a 2,000- mile march from Mexico City to San Francisco, Father Serra resists having the newcomers settle near his missions. They are for the Indians, he insists. Father Serra's travail and singlemindedness will not earn everyone's sympathy, particularly when European Christianity seems effete beside the Indians' indigenous pantheism.