The year is 2021. For 25 years no child has been born. Nor will there be any more children for infertility has spread like a plague and the human race faces extinction. Under the despotic rule of Xan Lyppiatt, the Warden of England, the young are violent and the old despairing. Theo Faron, an Oxford historian and cousin of the Warden, leads a solitary, self-absorbed life in this ominous atmosphere. But when he is approached by a group of dissenters, Theo is involved in unimaginable horrors and faced with agonizing choices that may change the future of mankind.