Rostov's passion for gruesomeness remains intact, but at least it's a bit more appropriate here--in a tale of war-games-gone-savage--than it was in the pseudo-romantic Eroica (1977). Colonel Nicholas Knight, age 38, born in Germany but U.S.-raised, is now back in Germany as a peacetime soldier, and he volunteers to take part in a NATO war game: pairs of men, parachuted into the countryside without food or money, will have ten days to travel 100 miles, pursued by soldiers in jeeps and local police. And, for some unknown reason, war-game leader Col, Dietrich singles Knight out, offering special rewards for his capture. Fair enough--but once the game begins, things get out of hand: Knight's partner dies in the parachute landing, Knight gets pierced in the eye by a tree branch, and, most crucially, he learns that Dietrich has outrageously asked the populace to join in capturing an ""escaped convict."" But, aided by nuns who smuggle him past the hunters in a coffin, Knight continues to try to reach his destination; he swims, rides on the roof of a train, starves, gets delirious, sleeps in an oven, lies in garbage with rats, talks to birds, is chased by hounds, is taken in for a while by a sturdy unwed mother (whom he loves and lusts for instantly), and finally makes it to the NATO base disguised in blackface. Not satisfied with all this horror, however, Rostov gives Knight a grisly childhood, which he remembers in fevered italics: his father beat him, his mother went mad when she gave birth to a two-headed baby, and his brother died a horrible death because of their father's sadism. And Col. Dietrich's mad motive for revenge on Knight involves yet more gruesomeness. For the painful-ordeal crowd, then, but that no-nonsense audience may not appreciate Rostov's frequently purplish prose.