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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.