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I'm trying to find the name of a book I read in the early-to-mid '90's, from my school's library (in Canada, should that help). I'm pretty sure it was a young adult novel.

From what I can remember, it involved a youth (I think a boy) named Gen (or something like that) becoming disillusioned with his primitive village and its superstitious people, and setting out on a journey, beyond the boundaries of his village (which were marked by metal stakes with coloured stripes or ribbons) into the wilderness beyond.

He eventually discovers a cave, which turns out to be a man-made structure. I recall he believes it to be a dragon's lair, which was what the people of his village were afraid of. Eventually, after crawling through a tight space (I believe a ventilation shaft) he discovers the "dragon" is actually a nuclear missile (or a bomber, but I'm pretty sure it's a missile or rocket).

It is also revealed that a metal amulet he wears is actually a launch key or data storage device that he uses to discover his people's past. It also turns out his name - Gen - is inherited from an ancestor of his, who was a General. It was this ancestor who gave him the amulet/key.

Here is a list of points I remember:

  • Rural village, superstitious/fearful elders imposing many taboos on the people, including one against leaving.
  • "Taboo" for that matter, may have been written as "Tabu" but I'm not 100% sure about that one.
  • Our protagonist, a young man (or woman) named Gen leaves village against elders' wishes, and it is implied that he wouldn't be welcome to return again.
  • The village boundary is marked with a metal pole (which is unusual as the villagers don't have metal of it's quality) with a coloured ribbon or stripe on it. I believe Gen takes it for a walking stick.
  • I have vague memory of Gen fighting his way upstream along a cliffside during his journey.
  • Gen finds a "dragon's cave", and crawls in through a tight space. That tight space turns out to be metal and is likely a ventilation shaft.
  • The cave itself turns out to be a missile or rocket silo, the missile itself being the "Dragon".
  • Using his ancestor's amulet on a computer in the silo, Gen discovers he lives in a post-apocalyptic world, and that the ancestor who owned the amulet was a military general, from where he got his name.
  • I want to say he eventually has to "defeat the dragon" by climbing it at some point.

marked as duplicate by Otis, tobiasvl, Bellatrix, Ward, Radhil Nov 4 '17 at 18:13

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  • 1
    I immediately thought of Monica Hughes, a Canadian young-adult science fiction author, but I haven't been able to trace this back to any of her books. – Pixel Jan 25 '17 at 19:28
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    Was it The Guardian of Isis? Matches the "taboo" reference and much of the plot anyway. – Trenin Jan 25 '17 at 19:42
  • Thanks! I'm pretty sure that's it, although I seem to be misremembering a lot of the details judging by the Wiki synopsis. I definitely recognise the cover though. Now all I have to do is find a copy... – Vanguard3000 Jan 27 '17 at 15:37
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So I've finished reading The Keeper of the Isis Light and The Guardian of Isis by Monica Hughes, and they immediately came back to me as I was reading them. While a lot of information was misremembered (especially the name Gen and the whole "Dragon" thing), I can confidently say that this series (particularly The Guardian of Isis, as it is the one with the dystopian setting) is what I was looking for.

Thanks to Pixel and Trenin for pointing me in the right direction.

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