On planet Hera, a human colony that, after 500 years, has forgotten most of its advanced science struggles to survive in the face of a deteriorating climate. Street-smart kid Vel gets by through theft and chicanery, refusing to be sent to labor in the fields like his parents. Soon, though, there won't be enough food to go around. The city's rulers, chief among them Justice Hillor (the name is significant), plan to put the food stockpiles in the hands of the rich, a development resisted by the King, who unfortunately is dying of the mysterious Pox. Hillor arranged for his agent Jak to steal the cure from the Frill, red-eyed aliens who inhabit underground tunnels despite the common assumption that they're extinct. Lord Denon and his Church regard the writings of the ancient visionary William Blake as Holy Scripture. But why is the Church's symbol a swastika? During his numerous escapades Vel meets ninja resistance fighter Lydia, but in spite of his growing awareness of the true situation (a condition few readers will share) he refuses to get involved. Because of his heredity, Vel is critical to both Hillor's and Lydia's plans. The Frill, apparently able to communicate with Vel through dreams, have their own agenda. And who, or what, is “Blakes”?
University of Chicago sophomore Chambers's debut seethes with ideas despite the grab-bag backdrop, incoherent plot, and unsatisfying ending: expect sequels.