Although listed as fiction, there is little evidence of a formulated plot, or even of characterization, as is to be expected in a novel. It seems to be based on authentic material, in a day by day account of a Cossack regiment wandering across the steppes, a record of daily brutalities within the regiment, a concerted effort to combat the three scourges -- Jews, Chinese and Reds. Rapine -- scourging -- deaths at the stake -- soldiers, civilians and enemy suffering alike. The slender thread of story concerns itself with two boys of eleven and thirteen who have run away from home to join the cavalry, and many of the most brutal scenes are witnessed by them. There is needless and typically Russian -- repugnant detail. There is power, of sorts. But, all in all, it is tedious reading, and difficult to see why it should appeal to any market.