In Wood's second outing (Looking for the Mahdi, 1996), the Earth's magnetic field declined, vanished, then reversed; with nothing to hold it in place, the ozone layer dispersed, allowing hard ultraviolet radiation to blast the surface, while the icecaps melted and refroze. Smaller cities enclosed themselves in protective domes and survived; large cities couldn't and didn't. Now, in 2242, safe, prosperous Pittsburgh is attempting to reoccupy the domed but abandoned cities Erie and Harrisburg. Because of the climatic upheavals, brutish, predatory Rangers, and fuel shortages, roads are impassable, so there's plenty of work for pilot Berkeley Nielsen and his ancient, patched-up helicopter. Angry, gloomy Berk, his marriage falling apart, volunteers to explore ruined Philadelphia for overlooked old oil dumps. When feral children attack Berk and wreck his chopper, he's rescued by young, scrappy survivor Sadonya, whose skills ``cooking'' up drugs and potions allow her to play rival gang leaders Squeeze and Mouse off against one another—until Squeeze dies, the balance of power shifts, and Sadonya must escape the city with Berk. And when, after various dreadful adventures, the pair—they loathe each other—reach Pittsburgh, Berk finds he can no longer be content to live inside its dome. The fresh, harrowing details and spunky heroine compensate somewhat for the creaky plotting, treacherous, repellent hero, and highly improbably windup.
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