cover image The Losers

The Losers

David Eddings. Fawcett Books, $20 (299pp) ISBN 978-0-449-90719-1

Stepping out of the fantasy genre, bestselling author Eddings (the Belgariad and Malloreon series) fashions a searing indictment of the social-welfare system in this sometimes compelling but unfortunately didactic novel about society's down-and-outers. During his first year at Oregon's Reed College, Raphael Taylor, a promising student and athlete, is introduced to the fast life by his roommate, wealthy debauchee Damon Flood. Trying to flee Flood's controlling personality, an inebriated Raphael crashes his car and loses a leg as a result of his injuries. After months of frustrating rehabilitation efforts and group meetings led by self-serving social workers, Raphael flees to Spokane, Wash., to try to construct a new life. Settling down in a poor neighborhood, he observes--without joining them--the people he calls losers, who exist from one self-inflicted crisis to the next. Then Damon arrives, precipitating death and destruction, but also providing the possibility of salvation for Raphael and the woman he has come to love. Eddings's condemnation of social workers as incompetent often stretches credibility. With its plot and characters barely fleshed out, the only slightly suspenseful narrative maintains a simplistic, fable-like quality that patronizes its audience. (June)