Out of the ferments of the final decades of the Soviet Union, when no spy agency foresaw major change in that totalitarian state, the author projects an alternative reality. Instead of the pseudo-liberation that would come, what if change had issued from two vital groups in society: dissident intellectuals, from whom the West heard much, and the working class—correspondingly little? Could the two groups, who appeared alienated from each other, somehow mesh, and bring about a new society? The State has ordained that head and sinew shall remain sundered. The debating intellectuals try to master history, personifying the trends of elitism, anarchism and reformism. Only one of them, Valya, has gone deeper, to identify how radical change will come. Meanwhile Ivan the well-trained Soviet worker strives to master daily life. Then a war in Asia destabilizes everything.