In his first novel, an English teacher and scriptwriter posits postnuclear survivors in his own country, New Zealand. Inhabitants of the isolated, primitive villages fear the ""loners""--people (or their descendants) who were turned out because their birth defects were erroneously believed to be contagious. Michael, 17, is one of the few villagers who has been taught to read; his job is copying old texts lest they be lost. In the novel, Michael tells how old Proctor entrusted him with a map showing the location of a cache of guns that Proctor thought should be used against the Loners, and how, after becoming an outcast by attempting to destroy these last known armaments, he sets out with a small group of friends for a new life. Michael's story is quickly and engagingly told, with a thought-provoking array of implicit parallels ranging from the Dark Ages to the AIDS crisis. The structure is more dramatic than logical: a long sequence concerning a tiger, early on, serves to define characters and setting but does little for the plot, and the moral issue of the weapons is dissipated when they are fortuitously destroyed by an active volcano at the crucial moment. Having the guerrillas more peaceful and enlightened than the established community is a neat twist, but what happens when they move in is left curiously vague. Still, a good yarn.