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Miklos Haraszti, one of Hungary's leading dissident writers, examines the effort by the state to control the culture over which it presides in The Velvet Prison (New York: Basic Books, 192 pp., $14.95). In this highly praised look at artistic censorship in the post-Stalin era, Haraszti probes "the complicity of artists and writers consigned to collaborate with the guardians that govern them."

Social and political turmoil breed good literature and it is, therefore, no surprise that South Africans continue to produce some stunning fiction. Heralded by Alan Paton as a masterpiece, Promised Land (New York: Summit Books, 205 pp., $18.95/$7.95), by South African author Karel Schoeman, offers a terrifying vision of South Africa in the future.

On a more optimistic note, Thatcherism, edited by Kenneth Minogue and Michael Biddiss (New York: St. Martin's,144 pp., $35) provides a close-up look at Britain's "Iron Lady."

The world of science always offers much grist for enthralling reading. In Chaos: Making a New Science (New York: Viking, 352 pp., $19.95), science reporter James Gleick recounts the exhilarating story of the study of chaos, identified by some scientists as a major revolution in the physical sciences. This new science offers a way of seeing order where previously only chaos had been observed.

Scientist and essayist Stephen Jay Gould serves up a delightful set of essays on biology, evolution, and nature in An Urchin in the Storm (New York: Norton, 255 pp., $18.95). Alvarez: Adventures of a Physicist (New York: Basic Books, 292 pp., $19.95) unfolds the rich autobiography of Nobel laureate physicist Luis Alvarez, who witnessed the dawn of the Atomic Age.