Let it prevail. . . . This is a very different kind of book from the also superior The Defection of A. J. Lewinter (p. 20) taking place aboard the Ebersole, a destroyer uninspected for years -- ""an ancient mariner living on borrowed time"" -- during the Vietnam war. The story, a mishmash (did you say MASH?) of random episodes aboard her (from the unfortunate visitation of a Congressman who wants to record something more memorable on film besides standing in the chow line -- say firing at any old coastline target) mostly deals with the attempt to isolate the anonymous author of some leaflets signed Sweet Reason which question the validity of the war and usually provoke some disturbing episodes, i.e. errors, like raising the flag upside down. But then there's the personnel: from Captain Jones in his spit-shined non-regulation Adler elevators who collects barbed wire and whose whole life (wife -- children) has gone by default: or the Shrink, an unconventional fellow called Wallowitch who asks unconventional questions of the Chaplain -- ""Does God have sperm?""; or particularly and especially the Poet, the most innocent or wisest of all, who keeps photos of My Lai over his bunk and is told to hang up some ""clean tit pictures."" Littell has an attractive rogue comic talent to disguise the fact that what he is writing about so sharply and seriously is war and, in particular, the most gratuitous one of all.