The imaginary land of Nghsi-Altai, first introduced in Red Shift, is apparently to be the subject of a tetralogy. At this stage it is impossible to say whether the project has anything to recommend it besides good intentions. Nghsi-Altai seems to be baldly intended as the very model of a model minor commonwealth according to an eclectic ideology borrowing heavily from the works of E.R. Schumacher (of ""Buddhist Economics"" and Small Is Beautiful fame). Like most self-respecting Utopias, it lies somewhere north of India; and it is based on a mixture of technological, pre-technological, and post-technological postulates. Thus a fairly primitive way of farming is practiced by design as being labor-intensive; but the village blacksmith can repair plows with the most sophisticated solar-powered equipment. Writing is outlawed; a special language exists for computer processing of production plans and other matters of communal interest. This brief volume is loosely organized around the fact-finding visit of three Americans resistibly named Jack Kerouac, Santiago Alvarez, and William Blake, and theft debate over approaches (fictional, documentary, Marxist, visionary) to the unique society of Nghsi-Altai. They visit families, attend religious festivals, transcribe songs, record koans from ""forest university"" lectures (""Learn to wind the clock before you take it apart"" . . ""Four carbon bonds allow infinite complexity""), and generally pontificate above and beyond the call of duty. So far, one has an overwhelming sense of exceedingly noble sales-pitches delivered with immense self-importance; it remains to be seen whether Nichols will develop his Utopia in greater depth.