The premise of the story is that once the Soviet Union got past the economic transitions and traumas of revolution, civil war and two world wars, it focused on production. The book refers to America's best and brightest being encouraged to go into careers in advertising, management and the like - while the best and brightest in the USSR were encouraged to go into the sciences, engineering and such. As a result, the "Soviet Complex" is producing the most advanced products for its own citizens. They also automate as much work as possible, allowing its people to have shorter work weeks. Then, the Soviets sell their products cheaply in capitalist countries in order to acquire local currencies. The other countries' money is then used to pay the costs of Soviet tourists vacationing in those other countries.
Mistaken projections such as the above often happen when you haven't really had a chance to see how events begin to unfold - for instance, if this novel had been written in 1950. The odd thing is, the book was written in 1975. I would not have thought that in 1975 the Soviet Union looked on track toward such a future. Regardless of what it may have seemed in 1975, it may seem strange to readers in 2011 who have lived for 20 years in a world without a Soviet Union.
In any case, the book shows us the West is faced with a dilemma. In order to pay for Soviet tourism to other countries, the Soviets sell their goods cheaply. They're not looking for profit - they just want to get local currency. They don't want to spend time competing with locally made products - and having to wait for their market share to grow. So they put low prices on the goods. The local production companies can't compete. Combined with the periodic economic downturns capitalism always has, the Western countries find it hard to recover and have boom years.
Tour leader Edwards is an American whose tours tend to have lots of Russian tourists. He had previously worked as a political-economist until he felt forced to change careers. Because of the combined knowledge from his two careers, he's approached as someone who might be able to suggest a solution to the West's dilemma. He comes up with an idea to at least temporarily reduce the number of Soviet citizens vacationing in the West, and therefore the extent to which the Soviets sell their products in the West. The affluent Soviets no longer actively discourage religion and its people are ready to take up such a novel lifestyle, even if only for a fad period.
He invents a new religion, centered on practicing lives of moderation, avoiding displays of wealth, and appreciating a focus on one's home. The story gives an interesting view of how the new religion is imagined, its theology pieced together, its "clergy" assembled, its supposed history created and its missionary work begun in the Soviet Union.
The story is entertaining. For most readers, it probably won't be more than light reading. There are some ideas to be found about the two economic systems that might stimulate some thinking. But in the era after the Soviet Union, fewer readers are likely to consider what is presented about the economic systems. Some readers may find food for thought on the promotion of religious beliefs.