Noren, whose heresy earned him access to the knowledge controlled by the Scholar caste (This Star Shall Abide, KR 1972), faces another, more subtle crisis because of his inability to place his faith in the Mother Star. As Noren learns more about his people's origins in the Six Worlds by experiencing the dreams of people long dead, he also comes to realize that the rationale for the existence of the Scholar elite is threatened by their failure to synthesize metal -- the scientific breakthrough on which the fulfillment of the Mother Star prophecy depends. The simple naive faith of his beloved Talyra and his own survival of an air car crash in the desolate Tomorrow Mountains demonstrate to Noren that the Mother Star symbolizes, not just the literal promise of the Prophecy, but the race's capacity for hope -- ""the Time of the Prophecy would come and go; but there would always be priests because no matter how much future Scholars might learn, some things would remain unknowable."" It's hard to be as sure as Noren is of the necessity for his planet's elaborate self-perpetuating theocracy, and since its justification is the major point of this trilogy so far, this is a serious failure. The fascination of both volumes lies in Engdahl's ability to create a many-layered society with a tragic past and a doubtful future that depends on its ability to cope with a harsh, brutal environment; but Notch's quest seems more and more to lead to preprogrammed answers and the journey Beyond the Tomorrow Mountains is powered largely by the momentum of its predecessor.