Prokosch writes some of the most beautiful, elegant, skillfully evocative prose it has been my good fortune to encounter. He conjures up landscapes he had never seen complete in every detail before the inner eye --- or deliberately, tantalizingly vague. If there were magic, it would sound very like his words, moving with the lazy, rippling, shadowed flow of quicksilver in sunset light.
I do not want to think about what evil spirit suggested to him that he break the spell by introducing characters. His Asiatics are a collection of racist cardboard cutouts, and rendered in such a dumb, unconvincing way as to be terminally annoying (while those of many equally racist and far less able contemporaries are not). As for his seven Europeans, they are not merely strangers to all constructive and generous impulses, but even to rational selfishness. The possbility that this is an allegorical statement of sin's relation to stupidity doesn't make up for the dirty, sticky feeling ones gets from inhabiting such minds.
If there is a plot, as opposed to a succession of scenes, it eluded me. About two-thirds of the way through, I uttered the Eight Deadly Words --- ``I don't care what happens to these people'' --- and started skimming off the delectable descriptive prose-poems. I probably should have done so much earlier.
Prokosch was, manifestly, a tremendously talent verbal artist. I cannot decide whether he used that art to say something false, ugly and boring, or whether (as I hope) he used it to say nothing at all. In either case, his talent was shamefully --- judging by his introduction, joyously --- squandered. I may give him another chance, with another book, but for now I put him away with admiration only for the books he could have written.