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Fiction

September 27, 1987|Art Seidenbaum

OUR MAN IN MONGOA by Alex Alben (Charles Scribner's Sons: $15.95; 240 pp.). Mongoa may be a Fourth World island--even a Fifth World one--blessed with King Stanley who was only 30 units short of a degree at USC when hereditary duty carried him home. Queen Julia came back with him, a Palos Verdes cheerleader who talks like a Valley girl and dresses from mail-order catalogues.

Bongoa, next door, may be a Fifth or Sixth World island, ruled by Chief Muzorewa, a one-time Stanford man who talks like an Oxford don but paints his bare chest like one of the good old tribal boys.

A rare and precious natural resource is what turns Mongoa and Bongoa into a Polynesian battleground, complete with a small nuclear threat and a limited Soviet invasion. Barbarians from the First World have come to discover vital interests; each power woos a different member of a fractious royal family, starting with Princess Octavia who had already murdered male heirs to the throne even before the French, the Soviets and the South Africans arrived. Walter Peabody is the American Central Intelligence agent, an honorable bumbler, who saves each world from self-destruction and perfidy.

Author Alben starts with a satiric needle jabbing all cultures, then blunts it with too many murders, too many conflicts of diminishing interest and, finally, with a chase scene that winds up all the way back in Washington. Here is a silly novel that falls long of being perfectly silly.

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