The first book of Nichols' tetralogy (Arrival, 1977) looked like nothing so much as a blueprint for a post-Fuller, thinking-man's Shangri-La, carried out in an, ostentatious collage of cultural, political, and technological components, Altogether a depressing prospect. Happily, Book II starts to resolve things into a much livelier design. As before, three Western observers (Santiago Alvarez, William Blake, and--replacing the deceased Jack Kerouac--William Morris) are wandering around trying to master the local ways, like how the solar-power system works in the big industrial city of Garh, and how three and a half million people can govern themselves by direct vote, and why everyone turns out on the Fourth of July to release historical ""Gas Dragon"" balloons and joyously tear down a tenth of the city preparatory to joyously rebuilding it. This time Nichols gives his characters and plot lines a bit more head, which is all to the good. But the real focus is a kind of extemporaneous trying-out of ideas and associations--from the Rotary Club to the principles of revolutionary socialism--in incongruous combinations and settings. It is all rather like a big Steinberg drawing, deadpan and provocative.