Fantasy treatment of the emptiness and futility of modern existence--in a glum, facile parable that first appeared (in Ende's native German) in 1973. Momo, a homeless and orphaned ragamuffin, comes to live in the ruined amphitheater at the edge of town, where the locals soon fall in love with her: she has a talent for listening to people and inspiring them, you see. Her special companions are Beppo, the slow, thoughtful, crippled roadsweeper, and Guido, the cheerful, tourist-gulling storyteller. But then, unnoticed, the town is occupied and controlled by agents of the Timesaving Bank, small gray men smoking small gray cigars. The gray men steal time: the time to chat with neighbors or visit friends, time for reflection or dreaming, etc.; people thereby lose their joy in life, becoming harried, anxious, and irritable. Still, the innocent and incorruptible Momo is proof against time-theft. So the gray men attempt to isolate her (Guido and Beppo succumb to their intrigues); and Momo must finally visit the distributors of all time, Dr. Hora and his talking tortoise Cassiopeia--in order to find out what the gray men are doing with all the time they've stolen. . . and how they may be defeated. Effortful, often grim stuff: the message gets across, but the magic of Ende's deservedly popular adventure The Neverending Story (1983) is missing.