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Westall plunges straight into the mystery - what is the creature buried in the perspex coffin inside the hillside cairn? The calm of the meticulously described rural community is from the start belied by this discovery. Change is unwelcome in Unthank - change in the landscape, in lifestyle or in attitude. Soon, however, the community becomes a battlefield as interstellar forces - good and evil - struggle for domination of the world. Unthank as microcosm, Ralph as catalyst; world survival the prize? The tension of Westall's writing is cleverly counterbalanced by the rhythms of rural village life and Ralph's moral dilemma about the part his curiosity played in the unleashing of the opposing forces is the more realistic for this convincing backdrop. The denouement is not so readily acceptable - well-crafted though it is, the spectacle of Ralph suddenly with 'the power to conquer the universe' defies belief. The flaw in this book is not its premise - that senseless violence, born of arrogance, is the seemingly irresistible source of our own destruction - but in its seduction by its own descriptive powers. Nevertheless, often a fine, challenging read for third or fourth-years - perhaps best used as a small set for wider reading as a worthwhile addition to a Westall collection.