L.P. Hartley's new and very different novel which invites comparison with Orwell, and with Hawthorne to whom he makes an acknowledgment, is a satire, a symbolic allegory, or if read on a more lowly level- science fiction. If the comparison with Orwell is to be made, it is less political, more moral and spiritual in its concerns; less ironic, more playful and certainly gentler in tone. The world it projects is a convalescent civilization after the atomic World War III. Standardization and equalization are the aims of the Dictator's (""Darling Dictator"" is the conventional obeisance) disciplines; Envy is the besetting sin, Equality the prime virtue. The Alphas form the privileged caste, and those who are failed Alphas bear a certain stigma and become Betas, and for women this involves plastic surgery (by the Ministry of Facial Justice) which obviates Envy. In the story here which concerns Jael, a failed Alpha, and her revolt (she wants to look like herself) when after her ""betafication"" she attempts to bring about the Dictator's downfall, many points of protest are raised. But certainly it is in Jael's at first wistful, and then obstinate determination to defend her individuality that the book is tender and touching. It is also imaginative and thoughtful.