In a dark cityscape that could be anywhere, Captain Old stumbles through the streets on his vintage scooter and is mugged. But he manages to recover in time to meet the train and the person from the Cleanlands he is to escort. Rajat Chaudhuri, in the first pages, evokes 1984, the blood dripping trains from Partition and the Clint Eastwoodesque arrival of a stranger with pale eyes. Gradually, the place unravels. It’s a futuristic Calcutta with hints of familiarity. Here, everyone seems to be diseased—the ancient ‘Supreme Guide’s’ system is kept running by melting yellow memory pills and youngblood tubes—or bioengineered down to the food. To make the terminology easier, Chaudhuri has supplied a glossary at the end of the book.
Henry David is the stranger from a train. He seems to know the secret of a virus sweeping the continent, but he has to be careful, there are eyes everywhere. David evokes an Indian geneticist working in a small town in England who may know the answer.