When men of science fell into disgrace... and technology was against the law!
No city, no town, no community of more than one thousand people of two hundred buildings to the square mile, shall be built or permitted to exist anywhere in the United States of America. —Constitution of the United States, Thirtieth Amendment
Two generations after the Destruction, rumors persisted about a secret desert hideaway where scientists worked with dangerous machines and where men plotted to revive the cities.
Almost a continent away, Len Coulter heard whisperings that fired his imagination.
Then one day he found a strange wooden box...
Len became conscious of Esau, crouched beside him in the dust. Both boys stared hypnotically at the black-coated preaching man spouting fire and brimstone:
"You wouldn't know them from your own God-fearing folk, my brethren, with their meek ways and sober garments! But they go about secretly proselyting, tempting our boys and young men, dangling the forbidden serpent's fruit in front of them, and on the brow of every one of them is the mark of the beast—the mark of Bartorstown!"
"By far Leigh Brackett's best novel... a great work of science fiction." —The New York Times
"You may think you are tired of prophecies of the decay of civilization after a destructive A-war; but let me assure you that Leigh Brackett has taken this subject and made it sparkling fresh by the warmth and perception of her writing." —H. H. Holmes