cover image The Bomb and the General

The Bomb and the General

Umberto Eco. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $12.95 (39pp) ISBN 978-0-15-209700-4

Eco and Carmi combine their considerable talents in these works, which suffer ultimately from sentimentality. In The Bomb and the General , a bad general piles up bombs while the atoms bemoan their fate as destructive substances. The atoms run away, and when the general, under pressure to keep his job, drops bombs, they don't explode. In The Three Astronauts , an American, a Russian and a Chinese astronaut all land on Mars at the same time, mistrustful of one another. But they all weep for their mothers as homesickness sets in, and unite forcefully when a Martian comes upon them. Prepared to kill him, they realize that the lesson they have learned about one another applies to the Martian, too; they are not so different. Carmi's collage forms reduce Americans to Chiclet gum wrappers, the Chinese to one calligraphic symbol, and Russians to a swatch torn from a red newspaper. Both books are interesting, eccentric products, but will not engage or involve readers. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)