In 2079, America has been all but destroyed by the explosion of a Yellowstone super-volcano, and publicity-thirsty terrorists ranging from the mildly annoyed to the incandescently furious find it surpassingly easy to engineer mass murders. As the world prepares to commemorate Pompeii's sad passing, indentured American laborer Brad Sheridan finds himself slaving in a wine shop, wearing authentic costume and eating authentic Roman food, serving chemically concocted wine to the throngs of tourists enjoying the ambience of a virtually reconstructed Pompeii. So good is "virt" technology that it's not easy to distinguish real near-slaves like Brad from the virtual ancient Romans. An annoyingly dimwitted narrator, Brad remains oblivious to significant and possibly sinister undercurrents: the ominous spread of a necrotic plague known as Pompeii Flu; the reason his friend, well-to-do hydrology engineer Maury Tesch, asks—insists—that Brad conceal Maury's mysterious sausage in Brad's refrigerator; the persistent attentions of a security operative, Piranha Woman; even the way his girlfriend, attractive volunteer Gerda Fleming, finds excuses to disappear out of town for extended periods. Will Brad ever catch on to the fact that something big and nasty is brewing? Pohl brings genuine expertise to his sketches of ancient Rome, and few can match the sheer warmth of his technique. In the later stages, though, the plot runs away, leaving most of the characters behind.Always a pleasure to welcome a new Pohl, even when, as here, he's transmitting a decidedly ambiguous message.