What timing! To have a novel ready for the No. 1 headline issue in the country and the world is that sort of luck authors go to sleep dreaming about. The simplification and personification of major issues is a West trademark that has made the critics sniff, but both Shoes of the Fisherman and Devil's Advocate made their way high on bestseller lists. There is no question that people need some clarification of the issues at stake in South Vietnam. Other books on this subject, both fiction and non-fiction, have encountered a reader block that is not likely to be operative here. These have assumed a familiarity with the whole situation that makes for obscurity and have loaded the pages with Viet names and abbreviations as irritatingly forgettable as any cast in an old Russian novel ...Maxwell Gordon Amberley is the narrator speaking ex post facto about his last diplomatic assignment. He was sent to Vietnam after a career of foreign service spent in the Orient where his reputation as a tough negotiator had been earned. The death of Amberley's wife had recently revealed to him his own spiritual poverty and brought on near panic. To be plunged into the torturous center of a country where war had become a way of life, where Christianity and Buddhism added up to violence, and where U. S. interests emphasized global strategy over the natives' national vision allows Amberley to explicate an international situation through a personal dilemma. Stiff dialogue and an Embassy staff too clearly typifying philosophical contrasts to be real will undoubtedly activate the critics again, but the brand name will promote a readership, seconded by the Book-of-the-Month Club selection.