A therapeutic if hyperthyroid novel about two young men and the Vietnam war on the home front, in which passion thrashes its tale under every line, but since the protagonist's central schmerz is explicit from the beginning, the author really has no place to go from the first chapter -- and doesn't. Jake has just returned to the States with a head full of atrocity and slaughter, but this is friend Brian's story, Brian who bleakly catalogues himself: ""pasty, soft flesh, bleeding gums, the exploded boil on my back."" Brian is adrift in the acrid vastness of Manhattan, unable to face either the war or draft evasion. In the novel's best section he remembers his boyhood in Chicago and Kansas City, the legacy of ""a continual beckoning. . .the pull to answer calls."" He tries to have a satisfying affair with a girl but he ""confirmed her own loneliness and she his."" While Jake, now married, has accommodated to his war experience and looks at his Nam photographs as at ""forbidden texts,"" Brian does escape the draft, but there is no exhilaration and his freedom from impossible choices is ""not beneficial but desultory."" Between the alternatives was nothing -- what is there ""for doing nothing?"" The cause is just and the statement valid -- but this is still more of a statement than a novel.