Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 24. 26th September 1973
A Saga of the NZ Revolution — Smith's Dream:
A Saga of the NZ Revolution
Stead's dream has recurred again in paperback form, which one supposes must indicate that it has been successful commercially. It deserves that success, and even rises to some literary merit in sections where the "great New Zealand novel" syndrome drops from the author's sight. Reviewers at the first publication were pretty kind about the novel, though many have found the ending, to use Stead's phrase "less than satisfying". In response to this Stead has changed the ending of the book (you can see the boldness of the type changes) in a way that he regards as more honest.
Smith 's Dream is a personal saga on the beginnings of a New Zealand revolution, centering round a character with whom one suspects Stead sypathises. He is a rather vague left-winger who derives most satisfaction from the contemplation of his own reactions to what happens around him, cuckolded but reassuringly still virile enough to get it away with a farmer's daughter and even with his wife later in the story. As opposed to him the security forces (in neo-fascist New Zealand) are head-prefect boxing champion he-men, and the guerrilla's dour, but brave and dedicated fighters. The occasion for the insurrection which Smith gets caught up in, is the rise to power of a dictator, aided by the quiescence and docility of the New Zealand people which Stead so obviously despises.
Some of it has a pretty real and exciting ring to it though, and anti-imperialist youth will enjoy descriptions of US Marines getting their heads shot off by good Kiwi guerrillas. The Marines have been sent tin an advisory capacity of course) to protect democracy from rising again, and the New Zealanders, remembering how the yanks got at their women in World War Two, are understandably pissed off. The yanks use helicopters like Wicker's Television show on deer cullers, throw bombs all round the place and appear to defoliate Coromandel. Its quite a bit to pack into 140 pages, especially for a Professor of English — buy it for your Mum for Christmas, and bring a little bit of Vietnam home to her.