Wrap It in Flags

The action begins with the futile attempt of Pentagon planners to deal with the rapid multiplication of those obnoxious birds, the starlings. The military’s vigorous response to the problem succeeds only in making the ever-more numerous starlings settle on the Pentagon’s roof, which they befoul with excrement. The tale of the starlings gives the reader a foretaste of the scathing and contemptuous treatment to which the military establishment will be subjected throughout the book.

It is Illuminado Castillo, the main protagonist, who does the most, albeit often unwittingly, to expose vice and folly in the United States military establishment. Castillo, a fervent admirer of the late General George Patton, is the naive hero so typically found in satire: a man whose simple ways and straightforward honesty point out, by contrast, the skulduggery and intrigue so rife in the Pentagon.

Terrall, having forced his hero to run the gauntlet, makes sure that the young man’s resistance to corruption is ultimately rewarded. The hilarious climax of the book occurs when a fleeing Illuminado penetrates the W-3 proving ground near Washington, seizing control of both a giant payloader and the supercomputer system that controls the weapon complex.

WRAP IT IN FLAGS, although quite entertaining at times, has one major flaw as a work of art: it is too disjointed. There is a great deal of darting from one scene to another; this constant movement becomes tiresome at times. Gems of wickedly hilarious satire await the patient reader, yet following the innumerable twists and turns of the narrative in order to find these riches can be tedious and confusing.