As one who, with the Elysian benefits of a classical education, takes to epic simile in the full knowledge that a plunge down the rabbit hole of myth-locked fantasy can be a hop-away best seller -- one that so handsomely indicates that the public can ingest mope -- so Richard Adams, author of Watership Down, spreads his scope, not only from rabbit to the magnitude of giant bear, but also from a Tolkien/Grahame adventure to a C.S. Lewis Nardian/Wagnerian brush with religious evolutions. This time, the animal is the huge bear Shardik, thudding through the forests of a nowhere land named Ortelga. He is not anthropomorphized but becomes in turn a totemic manifestation, a living instrument of the ""power of God,"" a vehicle of ethnic destiny, a tortured prisoner of man's ignorance and cruelty, and at last the Redeemer, whose sacrificial death brings about a community of love and peace. Throughout, the human closest to the bear is Keldrek, an ignorant, humble hunter, who becomes, in his dedication to God-in-Shardik, a part of the Shardik priestess cult, a corrupt king, a shriven penitent, and finally the genius of a utopian colony. There are journeys of triumph and hardship, spiritual awakening and aridity, prophetic myths from the past shadowing present and future and all the trappings of Messianic religion. Again there is a problem with human speech which gravitates from suitable neutral intonations to YMCA modern. But there are also streches of arcane yet truly lyric narration and heroic action. Considering too, the success of Watership Down, one can be bullish on this bear.