Percy is at his best, in my opinion, when he concentrates on character. He has a steady hand when it comes to creating colorful individuals,as well as endowing his beloved southern culture with a personality all its own. His observations, voiced through these characters, are sardonic and sharp and are, to me, the greatest pleasure of his writing. Unfortunately, this book gets bogged down in a daft mind-altering-chemicals-in-the-water plot involving ex-Nazis (if Nazis can be 'ex') and rogue psychiatrists. The chemicals -- heavy sodium for those who are interested -- apparently banish all negative behavior in the test population, behavior such as violence, sloth, teen pregnancy, and sexual perversion such as oh, homosexuality. (Homosexuality is cited as a perversion by several of the characters, not me, and in fairness I have no idea what Percy thought on the subject. We must not confuse a character's opinions, necessarily, with those of the character's creator.) The dialogue is often repetitive and rings false, with little individuality between voices. And, annoyingly, the African-American characters speak in phonetics, making them sound stereotypical, which I don't actually think was Percy's intention.
All in all, I had hoped for more and the first chapters of the book promised more. I was disappointed in this effort, although Percy's talent is unmistakable. I'll try another of Percy's titles before discounting him.