Last year's The Sin of the Prophet was a resounding novel built around the abolitionist fireworks in Massachusetts and the figure of Dr. Theodore Parker. This novel is considerably less effective, in a story of George Ripley, who gives up his Boston parish to launch the perilous adventure in communal living at Brook Farm. Not only is Ripley a much less appealing figure than Parker, but Truman Nelson -- though thoroughly saturated in the philosophical areas which were represented at Brook Farm- writes with an ill-disguised cynicism and tongue in cheek attitude towards the falsities of the motives which contributed to its conception and decay. Parker and Emerson and Thoreau and others of the Concord group come and go through the pages, but the issues involve largely George Ripley, Charles Dana, John Dwight and a number of characters presumably fictional, but all drawn by some phase of transcendentalism, hope for a social Utopia, escape from the pressures of the economic stresses of the times. While the tensions of fanaticism, and frustrations contribute to the extravagances of expression, and the tantalizing appeal of the lovely Lilly Grey contradict the very standards Ripley teaches, the plot and characterizations bog down in too close a fidelity to the actual writings and preachings of the key people themselves. Enormous research must have gone into this, but the end result is a laborious intellectual exercise, with possibly its own market of intellectual snob appeal.