giving up their autonomy), their verynprofusion in this fairly short workndetracts from a sense of direction. Notnuntil the international race car rally innthe late chapters does the novel regainnits initial momentum. Nor does the mainncharacter sustain excitement. A playboynwho is boring and egocentric, a politicalnfigure without intense ambition ornconviction, Andrei Luchnikov emergesnas something of a classy poseur, a mannheading a potentially suicidal movementnsimply because it is feshionably contrary.nThere exists at the core of the man annullity which makes it hard for thenreader to care much about his fate;nworse, his superficiality invites us to losentrack of the stakes involved in his trendy,nself-righteously foolish cause. (Again, asnin Bradbury’s novel, it is a woman, herenLuchnikov’s compromised Soviet mistress,nwho has a depth missing in thenleading figure.)nThe indistinctness of the novel’sn[ LlBKRAI. CllTlRi: 1nISiolonY Is .ot Dcslinyn hri-iiklhroiijili in IViiiinisi l1ii’ iiiin’snwiiik. loo …. liKi’i’iisi’il briMsi si/i- inoin]U’LX’ssjr lor niilk procliii’lioii.n^lilhollgll 11 i.MIMMlil .IIVMlll Vi’h.ii i.snlU’i i.’s.i:!! y lor milk |ii’oilui lion isnhornioiKil siiMiiihilioii. jiul il iloisii’inll;IM.’ lo hi’ :iclliiAvil lliiiiiii;li Likiii};nlioi’inoiU’ ilruj’s. Ilk’ inolliiT who h:isniiisi }>i(‘n hirlli JIMS iuii’ lioi’iiionrnsiiinuknion. hill so i’;iii .iin iiuliviilii:il.n111.111 or woiiKin. who piits ,iii iiiMni lonliii’liriMslsloiM ix’riovl ol’liim’.iilil Ills ilnsink … Iliil Ihc:ihilit (il nuii l<>iiiirsi’nis :i long-rori>otU’n .mil (Icniiil hiiin:iiins|)iiiis.siirvii;il iiuili;iiiisni m.ihlini;niiir.iiils lo hi- nourishi’il in i;isis oTnlU’i’i’ssiiv. Ili.a is. il is ili’iiii’il .iinoii};nVM-siiiii livili/i-irsoiiiiii’s. In iiioiliiiinil:ii pii-li-ihiiolo_nit;il groups, nun .in’nH m^m^mmmamm^nChronicles of Culturenprotagonist may result from the author’sndisturbing vision of the West as being sonfundamentally self-preoccupied that itncannot come to terms with even thenmost dangerous forms of externalnreality. His treatment of television’snability to trivialize to the level of gossipneven national catastrophe suggests asnmuch; it has the wit and bite of the satirenof a writer who comes fresh to ournculture from one where they play fornkeeps. Equally insightful is Aksyonov’snportrayal of the Common Fate Leaguen(whose acronym in Russia is SOS). ThenLeague’s appeal combines snobbish guiltnover the island’s prosperity with a selfcongratulatory,nsemireligious notion ofnthe Crimea becoming a leaven whichnwill alter the direction of the SovietnUnion. Adding to the mix is a fake realismnabout the consequences of the merger,nas Luchnikov’s Courier runs piecesnexposing selected and not especiallynhorrendous shortcomings of the Sovietnrnolli’ii si’in lo pul h.ihics lo ihi- hiiMslniroMi linii’ lo Unic lo p;i.ssil |sii'{ ihiinn<.iilliiri’sihk’lii’ni’onr: iiliisivil iiKisi’iilinr loks ;IIKInli’ni:ilrsrM’liisii’h nuliTiul roles in:i>n111- ilriiv.isiiin liii- ni;ili’s proilnilion ol’nli-ni.ili- SIX liornionis. -.11111 iii’ MIS.I.nTill’ giniliT roll’s iliiil our iiilliiri’nLissimi.s lis hiivi’ ;is miiih i-lliil on ournliiolog ;is hiolo}>y hiis on iliMrrniiniii};noiir);iiiilirrolis.nOlfiuirM’. j.s miiiv and inoiv nn.-ii bcj;inn111 niirsi- llidr habii-s. CMMI tin.- sky i^ nonlunsitT llif liniil. Oiuv iiii-ii haw ipi-iii-iKvilnthe jovsol’niirsinji. iJifv may lifnri-aily liir llu- iillimali’ thrill orinotlKThood—inali”rnii.n1nnnsystem; such hints of darkness have thene6fect of a dare, making the public morenwilling to embrace the challenge. Thenmost powerful ingredierft in thenLeague’s appeal, however, is the Sheerninability of the island’s comfortablenpopulation to believe that this movementnis not just another routine political spectacle,na media event, which will in thenend not disrupt the pleasing rhythms ofntheir affluent Uves. Things, they feel, willngo on nicely; arrangements of some sortnwill be worked out; somewhere therenmust be insurance coverage againstngenuine national disaster.nIn theme, tone, and structure, bothnRates of Exchange and The Island ofnCrimea attempt to reflect the crazy quiltnnature of attitudes in the West towardnthe continuing superpower struggle.nWith the weakening in the West of whatnis now derisively tagged as the “ColdnWar mentality,” no single pattern ofnthinking has come to dominate. An oldernrealism, somewhat muted, continues;nleftist revisionism has achieved somenstatus; more prevalent than either,nhowever, may be the indisposition tonthink seriously, if at all, of the conflictnwhose realities we were once willing tonface, whatever our other political views.nNow we ignore it, wish it away, or deridenit as antiquated. The problem for bothnnovelists is to embody mass vacuousnessnin characters who, if they are to be morenthan satiric targets, need to have annintellectual and emotional richnessnwhich the authors see as missing fromnthe contemporary picture. To write of antriviality of spirit without creating trivialnmain characters who lose our interest isnthe difficulty neither Bradbury nornAksyonov fully solves. But both havencaptured an important dimension of ournsituation and in so doing have creatednenjoyable and worthwhile politicalnnovels. Since in each fiction the laughter,nthe cocktafl party chatter, and the trendynposes halt in pain before the realities ofnregimes which have changed little inndecades, we must hope the authors havennot also given us works which provenprophetic. Dn