Pick of the Paperbacks; Who's On First, by William F. Buckley Jr. New York: Avon Books. $2.95.

This smartly told morality tale involves the competition between the superpowers to put the first satellite into space (circa 1956). This sprint leads to the temporary kidnapping of a gifted Soviet scientist and his wife, the murder of a Hungarian freedom fighter, scenes from the Soviet "archipelago," and a devious plot to do away with CIA agent Blackford Oakes. It is a wide-ranging affair with the interesting twist being the well- known Soviet success in the race.

The cast includes a Soviet spymaster covertly devoted to Russian literature; a beautiful and cunning Hungarian partisan; two grave and charming Russian scientists; the alluring wife of one of them; and of course Blackford Oakes, Buckley's subaltern ego, a fellow whose bounty, vigor, and curiosity exceed even that of his celebrated progenitor.

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