As the Cold War heats up, Americans frantically buy "scopas suits"(Self-COntained Post-Attack Survival) as protection against nukes. Tombstone engraver George Paxton can't afford one for his young daughter, until a strange old woman commissions epitaphs for her "parents" and pays by directing him to a magic shop where the scopas suit costs only his signature--acknowledging responsibility for any nuclear war. Soon we realise George's improvised epitaphs are for Eve, Adam and everyone:
She was better than she knew. He never found out what he was doing here.
Whimsy and social satire give way to nightmare as the missiles fall, scopas suits prove useless, and post-nuclear hell is painted in stomach-churning detail: flashburns, melted eyes, shattered people begging for death.
George, though, is rescued. As one of six who signed the McMurdo Sound Agreement, he must stand trial in Antarctica for complicity in murdering humanity. Prosecution, defenders, judges and police are the "unadmitted", unborn future generations now denied real life, whose sheer rage has won them temporary existence. Old disarmament and deterrence arguments, wittily rehashed in the Nuremberg-like court, seem all too different after the worst has happened. This queasy tragicomedy isn't easily forgotten. --David Langford