Initially, the book reads like a fairly standard science fiction novel. A force-field experiment at a University on the little island of Halcyon goes catastrophically wrong, ripping the entire island into what appears to be an alternate reality with no human inhabitants. But as they begin to explore this part-familiar, part-alien world a different picture slowly emerges. Was their coming here an accident, and what is the real agenda of the men who have set themselves up as Halcyon’s leaders? More worryingly still, it gradually becomes apparent that this world was not always uninhabited. So why does it seem that way now – and is it really?
As the plot thickens the book becomes more of a science fantasy battle between both moral and spiritual forces of good and evil than a simple science fiction. But this is one of the most interesting aspects of the book. On one hand, are hard-nosed scientists and philosophers, determined to create a new human utopia without any taint of religion or old-fashioned morality. In the middle are a lot of hurting and confused young people of various persuasions who desperately want to go home; and at the other extreme a group of religious fundamentalists who simply want an escape from the perceived evils of this brave new world.
But who are the real moralists and the real oppressors? As we follow the stories of some of those caught in the middle of all this, there are many fascinating discussions as they try to work through the issues of who, and what, they should believe, and how they should respond in this strange new reality.