Northern Ireland resident McDonald's medium/far future scenario--part allegory, all parallel--derives from the current situation in that unhappy land. Talented humans mentally manipulate DNA to produce any desired life form, growing houses, vehicles, insects, even boats, from ""plasm""; dissidents, however, get turned into trees. In the village Chepsenyt, Proclaimers (loyalists who do not believe in life after death) and Confessors (republicans whose dead are absorbed bodily into a vast sentient tree) peaceably coexist. But then, as punishment for harboring two fugitive rebels, Imperial troops burn the village to the ground and take the men away; with the women and children, Mathembe Fileli (she has taken an oath of silence) flees with her grandfather's living head. As the Chepsenyt disaster flares into a nationwide bloody revolt and, ultimately, partition, Mathembe struggles to survive and reunite her scattered family. Eventually, she learns from her father (he has been turned into a tree) that, though in the real world the Proclaimers oppress the Confessors, in the spiritual world (the ""dreaming"") the reverse is true. Finally, she joins her mother in a movement whose purpose is to infect everyone with viruses that prevent hatred and violence and prejudice. Inventive and often effective drama, but dense and oppressive, with the dark and anguished backdrop looming above the characters; and the ending bleakly acknowledges that, in terms of today's troubles, nothing much can be done.