In an unnamed town in a land ruled by an Orwellian ""Mr.
President,"" mysterious causes have produced two years of unceasing
rain and turned the local schoolchildren into a cadre of advanced
beings who regard their human progenitors with benevolent
detachment. Their metamorphosis seems to be bound up with the
simultaneous plague of ""yellow leprosy"" which has left unknown
numbers of bandaged victims (""slimies"") wandering about the town
in apparent communication with the children. Victor Banev,
well-known novelist, has come back from the capital to the stricken
town to be near his ex-wife and their newly transformed daughter;
this mission of moral support quickly takes the form of hanging
around the hotel bar with a gaggle of cronies alcoholically trying
to put two and two together. The denouement may remind some of
Childhood's End, but the Strugatskys are vastly more resourceful
and energetic novelists than Clarke. Witty, economical, and
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