These five stories set in Vietnam war zones are a much more somber collection than his earlier Bubble Gum and Kipling (1964). Mayer's American soldiers, reporter, photographer and pilots are men numbed by what seems to be a setting adrift of consciousness, a bifurcation of values and understanding. In the title story, a pilot, on opium pills, after witnessing the death of an older flyer who seemed relatively whole, projects his return home where ""I (will have) as little to do with people as possible."" He wanders also through the bleak pathos of the pilots' ""Snoopy complex."" The savagery, the torture of prisoners, the tantrum of massacres have a similar childlike cast. And there is also the conservation of talismans -- a Vietnamese woman killed while in labor gives birth to a dead baby and it was somehow urgent that the baby be born alive. A Special Forces soldier braces himself for another walk with his fear; a reporter watches the torture of two Vietnamese women; and a photographer takes pictures of the dead and grieving (""You know that to get the good stuff some of them would be killed or hurt""). In a dry dead calm mined with abrupt recognitions, Mayer has located the blacked-out humanity of brutalized men with guns and the terrible weariness of the war.