The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Alvin is a Unique in Diaspar, freshly created rather than revived from the city’s Memory Banks. He is one of only fifteen new creations in a billion-year history. He knows he is not like others because he has never feared the open spaces in the seemingly dead world beyond the city’s towering walls. He finds a vantage point from which to view the endless sands, the night sky, and the fading stars, but no one in Diaspar is willing or able to bear the vistas he yearns to explore. He begins a systematic attempt to escape from the city’s perfect enclosure.

By regressing a computer-generated scale model of the city, Alvin locates the long-buried hub of a forgotten transit system. Because everything of value is maintained by eternity circuits, the rails are still in place and ready to carry a passenger to the only destination left on Earth, the city of Lys. Alvin steps aboard and is whisked away to a land he never knew existed.

Lys is the opposite of Diaspar. There, people have chosen to reproduce and die naturally rather than pursue an artificially maintained immortality. They live in scattered villages, grow their own food, and communicate telepathically. They restrain the encroaching deserts behind Earth’s last mountains and maintain a complex ecosystem within their shelter. Science and philosophy are still vigorous in Lys. According to legend, the scientists of Lys fought off the dreaded Invaders at Shalmirane when humans were driven from...

(The entire section is 577 words.)