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At the beginning of this novel which suggests very well the malignant boredom within a small British army unit engaged in an operation of an unspecified nature, one is never quite sure what is going to happen. By the close, one has been exposed to so many strenuous activities and ideas, that it's difficult to remember just what has gone on. Amis' conglomerate chronicle, a little science fiction (the genre he charted in New Maps of Hell), possibly a spy thriller (remember, he anatomized Fleming's oeuvre), some satire (he is a splendid satirist) uses many techniques, all the way from mischievous parody to more serious protest. The butt of the former is a psychiatrist at a nearby clinic; the burden of the latter is the (childish? futile?) protest against death, which becomes particularly paradoxical in a small world such as this bent on blowing up half a continent. Then, on the one hand, there's the Anti-Death League, a kind of treason here; and, on the other, the love of James Churchill, one of the young officers, for Catherine Casement, a love which should oppose death and somehow can't as James finds they are moving into the sphere of the "lethal node." And finally, there's a spy hunt for a "non-transvasive defector"-- Amis has some marvelous jargon throughout.... All in all, it might be classed as an intellectual thriller-- it's a work of considerable originality and agility and it should keep its readers firmly captive, midway between attention and admiration.
Pub Date: Aug. 17th, 1966
ISBN: 014002803X
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace & World
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1966


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