Five years after an apparently cataclysmic future event, three teen-agers and a band of children escape the repressive society of their sealed retreat to return to the world above. In an elaborate underground shelter, several hundred survivors have accepted a carefully controlled existence. In drug-induced lassitude, personalities are kept in check, memories have grown hazy, customs have lost meaning (Christmas/Chanukah is "the C Holiday"). Frustrated by the inertia, Sorb asks pointed questions--for which he is brutally subjected to a brain scrambler that leaves him oddly fey and poetic but still determined to make a break, which he eventually does with the help of friends Mart and Ella. Maguire is best at conveying vivid feelings: the yearning of young minds seeking freedom, suffocating containment, oppression, anger at smug--or fearful--adults. The claustrophobic underground sphere is vividly evoked through all the senses and an array of imaginatively named characters. Some plot threads are left hanging, frustrating to the literal-minded but perhaps leaving more scope for the imaginative. The relationships among the protagonists are problematic: to what purpose does Ella reject both boys, becoming a mother-figure at the age of 15? The ending may not satisfy: Are these the last people on earth? Was there really a disaster? The narrative ends too abruptly to tell, but the ambiguity leaves room for hope. A valuable but mixed effort.