Judith Moffett returns to the future with this moving tale of the Hefn occupation of Earth and how it affects the planet's native humans - two in particular: Pam Pruitt, a talented young woman from Kentucky, and Liam O'Hara, whose unique friendship with the Hefn Humphrey saved his life. The two teens journey to a special place in remote Kentucky, Hurt Hollow, where the painter Orrin Hubbell and his wife, Hannah, found a way to live in peace with the planet during the twentieth century. The prospects of living peacefully seem distant for Pam and Liam, both of whom must find peace with themselves as well as with the Hefn Directive. The marvelous events that befall them en route to Kentucky and in the Hollow itself beautifully depict the subtle ways in which the world shapes them, and the stunning ways in which they change the world.
Early in the 21st century, the Hefn--an alien race who are the slaves of the unseen Gafr--have taken over Earth in order to save it. Prohibiting pollution, they have also forbidden humans to procreate until the population stabilizes. (Moffett set all this up in The Ragged World .) Here, a Hefn named Humphrey has formed the Bureau of Temporal Physics, where nine teenage math prodigies work on Hefn time-travel apparatus; two of them, Liam O'Hara and Pam Pruitt, are the focus of this double-layered story. Pam, at age 26, has written about her life at 14 and has sent a copy of the manuscript to Liam, whose comments appear at the end of each chapter. The chronicle tells of Pam and Liam's vacation from the BTP as teenagers to Hurt Hollow, a back-to-nature farm in Indiana whose residents live off the land without any modern conveniences. Human hostility toward the ``benign dictators'' comes to a head in a dramatic confrontation involving Humphrey, Liam and Pam and a fundamentalist preacher who believes the Hefn are the Antichrist. Intriguing for its then-and-now structure, this is also an engrossing character study of two teenagers.