In the third volume of Corlett's loosely yoked ""emotional trilogy,"" his playwright hero--last seen cracking under the strain of a broken love affair--is a dried-up old man, living alone in a too-believable future marked by shortages, repressive bureaucracy, and, finally, volence. Like the commune across the way, the old man is resented by the native villagers for using local space and resources. Tension builds; harrassment and, eventually, a beating drive the uptight old recluse to accept the commune's overtures of friendship, and he is with them on the day after Christmas when villagers attack the group at their festive table. Meanwhile he has formed another, warmer bond with a homeless young girl who has moved into his house; rude and difficult at first, she invades his loneliness and draws him out--but she is the first one killed in the Boxing Day raid. Corlett ends on a note of hope, for the sobering consequences of that raid--nineteen dead on both sides--bring the people uneasily together; the old man himself has opened his home to a boy from the village and to another expelled from the commune. (Remember how the boy in The Gates of Eden  befriended another old man?) And thus, after completing his account of it all, the hero fades out in a dream. . . until ""Eden is only a stone's throw away."" Corlett writes atmospherically, all the more hypnotically so in that he concentrates on an inner atmosphere--and, unlike the flashier aura of The Land Beyond, it's a genuine, affecting one.