Malevil, a French castle built during the Hundred Years War, is occupied now by a small group, the survivors of a nuclear explosion which has taken place during Easter of 1977. It appears that outside the castle walls all human, animal and plant life has been consumed. Within Malevil, however, there remain some basic provisions -- livestock, elemental tools, and, fortunately, a few country people who have the skills and crafts to use them. The little band of, at first, seven, has been bombed back into, not the Stone Age, but as it turns out, only into feudalism and occasionally, it seems, into a kind of downright Utopianism. For the system the group develops -- as more survivors increase their number -- is a kind of primitive agrarian communism in which everything is shared: monogamy is just as preposterous here as the notion of private property. As they learn of other survivors it becomes clear that Malevil must defend itself, not only against marauders but also against more subtle political domination. And the premature death of their leader only reinforces the necessity now to pursue scientific knowledge. Exit Utopia. Enter technology. Merle, the author of The Day of the Dolphin calls his work ""roman d'atnticipation."" Even if his characters are somewhat less than memorable, his stories are provocative and he raises, in an intelligent way, the most basic kind of questions: what kind of life is most worth preserving? what relationships are the most valuable? Or, if you must, put it another way: who would you prefer to have with you on a desert island? a stockbroker? a couturier? a book reviewer? . . . .