A bleak futuristic saga combining primal urges with an abhorrence of any human touch--from Ely (Always Home, p. 485, etc.), who situates a desperate love story in an America where technology has long since reached its terrifying zenith and decay has set in with catastrophic consequences. A conscientious public servant in a time when blind obedience to the powers that be is the rule, Engineer William G. Fowke discovers disturbing evidence of seepage in his sector of the Wall- -an aging monument to human achievement built along the entire East Coast to create arable land by forcing back the sea. His urgent reports incur increasing animosity from his superiors as he's shadowed by robots, hounded by security forces, and finally arrested when he goes too far. He and the agent who brings him in fall in love, however, having developed a bond of common sensuality in a previous chance liaison (accomplished, through the wonders of technology, without direct contact), and she helps him when he is recaptured after escaping from prison. Unfortunately, Fowke has a knack for alienating himself both from those already excluded from society and others who, like him, have proved an embarrassment and a threat, which forces him to rely solely on his own devices, and he has to kill in order to regain entry into his former life. He finds then that the worst has happened--that his beloved Wall has been breached and that the sea has returned with a vengeance--but reunion with Julia leaves some hope for a new beginning. Somewhat schematic and episodic, with a too-naive protagonist, but still an inventive cautionary tale in which the vivid technological features are unsettling in their plausibility.