The story begins 200 years after the “shake:” a tremendous earthquake that destroyed every building and structure, split the earth to its core, poisoned the atmosphere with radiation and volcanic gases, and killed most of the population of Earth. Survivors have formed communities called “latches” among the rubble of the cities. Social structures have formed in these survivor communities and, in most cases, the most powerful or the most ruthless member of the community has risen to the position of “latch boss,” running the latch as his or her own personal kingdom with his or her own personal army of thugs. Over time, most of these latches have devolved into primitive, uncivilized societies; there are no books, they were all destroyed in the fires after the 'shake, no written language at all so, over time, people have forgotten how to read and write. Even memories of the old civilization are gone and the concept of a future is inconceivable. There exists, however, one exception to the latch; after the 'shake,' the richest and most powerful of the survivors formed a central city they called Eden. Through the use of genetic engineering and technology, Eden is now populated by “proovs”(genetically improved humans), isolated from the pollution in the air by an ion shield and isolated from the “normals” who populate the 'latches' by minefields. Eden is the last bastion of the basic values of the old civilization and the birthplace of a new race of humans.
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A 'normal' boy named Spaz lives alone in one of the latches outside Eden. Orphaned as an infant, Spaz was adopted by a family in another latch but when it was discovered he was an epileptic, he was not only cast out of his home, he was cast out of the latch -- all because of his adoptive family's ignorance of epilepsy and their fear his disease would bring harm to their daughter, a girl named Bean. Spaz loves no one more than he loves his adoptive sister Bean and he misses her badly so one day when a messenger arrives with a message that Bean is dying and wants to see him, Spaz is determined to do absolutely anything to make the trip back to his old latch and see her. Any trip between latches is generally understood to be strictly forbidden and this particular trip has been specifically forbidden by Billy Bizmo, the latch boss; but in spite of that, Spaz makes the trip.
Spaz's trip back home is begun with the help of Ryter, an old man from his latch who is the only person in the latch (and perhaps the only person outside Eden) who has the ability to write and who still has a knowledge of history and great literature. A small orphan boy called only “Little Face” also attaches himself to the travelers. Along the way the trio is joined by a proov girl named Lanaya who, when she comes of age, is destined to become the ruler of Eden. The trip is filled with many dangers and many confrontations with the uncivilized inhabitants of the latches that must be crossed and much blood is shed but Spaz finally arrives at Bean's side. Bean is weak and frail and soon slips into a coma; her only hope for survival is Eden and, even though “normals” are forbidden in Eden, Lanya agrees to take Spaz, Bean, Ryter and Little Face to her home. In Eden they are welcomed by Lanya's family but not by the Masters of Eden or the citizens. Bean is allowed to receive treatment for her disease but when she recovers they are all forced to leave Eden (all but Little Face who is secretly adopted by Lanya's parents). Bean returns home to her family, and Spaz and Ryter return to their latch where, as punishment for leaving, Ryter is brutally murdered. Spaz however is spared and understands why when he learns the identity of his real father. Spaz, who has learned so much from his adventure and so much more from Ryter, from Lanya and from Eden, now feels that there might be hope for a future after all and decides that he will take over where Ryter left off and write the story of his times.
The review of this Book prepared by Harvey Grund