When Crospinal’s ailing father finally dies, he is left utterly alone in the pen, surrounded by encroaching darkness. The machines that tended to him as a child have long ago vanished, and the apparitions that kept Crospinal company are now silenced. Struggling with congenital issues, outfitted in a threadbare uniform, he has little choice but to leave what was once his home, soon discovering that nothing in the outside world is how he had been told it would be. In his quest for meaning and understanding, and the contact of another, Crospinal learns truths about himself, about his father, and about the last bastion of humanity, trapped with him at the end of time.
Crippled Crospinal was raised by thinking machines under the command of the man he thinks of as his father. When his father dies after a long illness, Crospinal is thrown out into the world, left to his own resources for the first time in his life. The world he discovers is not the one he expects; everything his father taught him, from the nature of his home to his true origin, seems to have been a farrago of lies and fantasies spun by a madman. Wandering a bizarre landscape, Crospinal will find echoes of lost family amid new dangers, and answers to questions he never knew to ask. Na ve protagonists unraveling lies to discover the truths hidden from them, revealing an entire world in the process, is a familiar spectacle, as is the kind of artificial construct Crospinal finds himself exploring; in terms of basic originality, there is not much to be found here. Where the novel stands out from its brethren is in the quality of Hayward's (Filaria) prose, and the skill with which he carefully details each scene and each character, using well-worn set pieces with an energy and splendor that blinds readers to their essential familiarity.