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Jeremy Tuft, professor of physics, is annoyed by the general strike that has overtaken England while he slept off the effects of the previous night's party. No breakfast is waiting when he arises, and he is forced to travel by foot, dodging military patrols, to keep his appointment with his friend Augustus Trehanoc, an eccentric inventor who is eager to demonstrate the new preservative ray he has discovered. During the demonstration, however, a bomb is thrown into the laboratory, and Jeremy is trapped under a table in the dying light of the ray generator as the ceiling comes down above him. When he awakens and digs himself out, he is baffled to find himself in a meadow; conversation with a passing stranger reveals that Jeremy has slept for 150 years, and the world, as a result of events triggered by the strike, has descended to a nearly pre-industrial age, with scattered pieces of technology preserved but not understood. Jeremy hopes to lie low and build a new life for himself, but the Speaker, monarch of southern England, decides Jeremy must marry his daughter, the Lady Eva, and he is thrust into the front lines of a battle that may spell the end of what remains of civilization.