Tiny people who are controlled by an elaborate computer game that rules their world--a sort of hologram made tangible--perceive the young men who manipulate their lives as gods. At Christmastime, Morris, 16, is in turmoil. His parents are feuding bitterly, and his mother plans to spend the holiday--taking Morris along with her--at the house of her impossible younger brother, Patrick. There, Morris becomes enthralled by Patrick's ""set-up'--an elaborate working model of a medieval castle besieged by peasants who are repeatedly annihilated and reborn. Morris soon suspects that the little people are more than animated dolls: he converses with--and comes to love--a gift he calls Vail, an apparently doomed, Joan of Arc-like figure. Meanwhile, Uncle Patrick, like an Old Testament god, is childishly wrathful and contemptuous of what he sees as a war game that doesn't work as it should--partly because he hasn't the patience to read the typically confusing computerese instructions. With more compassion, coupled with horror at the pointless killing, Morris attempts benign intervention; but his clumsy efforts meet with little success. The preprogrammed drama proceeds to its predicted apocalypse--including a glorious but somewhat enigmatic resurrection--on Christmas eve. Mace deftly blends amoral game, moral philosophy, and family dynamics into a complex structure--one filled with fascinating ideas and cross-references Ã la Mahy. Splendidly intriguing.