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By Neal Stephenson

For ten years Fraa Erasmas, a tender avout, has lived in a cloistered sanctuary for mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers, protected against the corrupting impacts of the surface global. yet ahead of the week is out, either the lifestyles he deserted and the only he embraced will stand poised close to cataclysmic change—and Erasmas turns into an incredible participant in a drama that may be certain the way forward for his international, as he follows his future to the main inhospitable corners of the planet . . . and beyond.

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That's Wreyland's doing. " asked Tom, leaning forward in his seat. "We need to get to London, as quickly as possible. " "Bless you, lad," said Wreyland, shaking his head. "What London drops isn't worth going far for, not these days. Everything's recycled now that prey's so short. Why, I remember the days when cities' waste-heaps used to dot the Hunting Ground like mountains. Oh, there was good pickings then! But not any more. Besides," he added with a shudder, "I wouldn't take my town too close to London, or any other city.

Welcome to Speedwell. I am Orme Wreyland, Mayor. " Hester hung back suspiciously, but Tom thought the old man looked friendly enough. " "I'm not your friend," hissed Hester Shaw. " But she was white and trembling and her face shone with sweat. "No doctor in Speedwell anyway," laughed Wreyland. "Not one. And as for food... Well, times are hard. " Tom patted the pockets of his tunic. He had a little money, but he didn't see what use London money would be to Orme Wreyland. Then he touched something hard.

Yes," said Tom, wondering how Valentine could know that. "It was horrible! " Then he remembered the terrible thing the girl had told him. " But he wasn't sure if he should tell Mr Valentine what she had said - it was a lie, insane. " hissed Valentine, and Tom flinched backwards, wishing he had never mentioned it. But when he looked up again Valentine was smiling kindly at him, his eyes full of sorrow. "Don't worry, Tom," he said. "I'm sorry. " Tom felt a big, gentle hand on his shoulder and then -he was never sure quite how it happened - a twist, a shove, and he was pitching over the 30 handrail and falling, just as Hester Shaw had fallen, flailing wildly for a hold on the smooth metal at the brim of the waste chute.

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