I read this book as a kid in the 80s at school. Its about a dystopian country where the protagonist lives in a dirty city environment (there are no longer books as they are deemed unsanitary because germs collect in them). Somehow the boy crosses into a pseudo-aristocratic countryside where there is hunting etc. and people live in a kind of stately home-esque life of Reilly (or do they?). I remember it having a sinister side but can't remember how and I think he falls in love with a girl there. Can you help me identify this book?

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    The second part reminds me of the middle of the first book of the Tripod Books, The White Mountains. The boy grew up in a regular town, but flees being 'capped', and encounters an aristocratic setting and even falls for a girl, only to discover that they, too, are part of the system. I don't remember anything about germs and books, but it's been years since I read it.
    – K-H-W
    May 7, 2012 at 20:46
  • @Keith - I just watched the BBC's 80s version of the Tripods, and it was awesome. Great story! Jun 8, 2012 at 14:45
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    The description makes me think Victor Kelleher, but I can't identify what book it might be from the list on Wikipedia. The description does not match Taronga.
    – timbp
    Jul 11, 2013 at 22:34
  • @timbp: I was thinking the same thing. Something about the city having a secret group called the Circle, and the country having a secret group called the Council, or vice-versa? I don't recall its title either, but it fits the description. There are probably other books that fit the loose description equally well though. Jan 6, 2015 at 14:36
  • possibly the same as scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/190970/… (which is newer but has an accepted answer)
    – Otis
    Aug 26, 2018 at 21:11

3 Answers 3


You may be looking for The Guardians by John Christopher.

Rob is a 13-year-old orphan following the death of his father. There is considerable suspicion and secrecy surrounding his death. Rob is sent away to a State boarding school where harsh disciplinary measures and ritual bullying by seniors soon make life intolerable; in his desperation, he devises a plan of escaping to the County, reasoning that he will avoid detection there much more easily than anywhere in the heavily-surveillanced Conurbs. He is further driven by the fact that his mother was also from the County and had herself crossed over into the Conurbs to be with his father.

Slipping out and making his way to Reading, he comes up against the Barrier dividing that Conurb from the County adjacent. The Barrier, unmanned, proves be a much less of a challenge than popular rumour suggests, and, finding a spot at which he is able to dig a gap underneath that is large enough to pass through, Rob crosses over into the County. He takes in his expansive surroundings as he continues north-west but does not manage a long distance before he is noticed. A figure on horse spots him and gives chase, catching up quickly as Rob twists his foot running.


The next day, a patrol stops at the Gifford house with orders to escort Rob for questioning. Rob's initial apprehensions about this are calmed when he is taken not to law enforcement but to Old Hall, Sir Percy Gregory's home. Over coffee and cherry cake, Rob comfortably recounts his old Nepal backstory again in response to Sir Percy's prompting questions. Sir Percy, however, shocks him when complimenting him by using his real surname. It becomes clear that Rob's true identity has been known to him for a long time now and that the authorities have tolerated his presence in the County. Using this as leverage, Sir Percy attempts to manipulate Rob into informing. Rob tells him everything except for Mike's late-night visit and the secret address; this seems to satisfy Sir Percy, though he had been hoping to find out more about the leaders of the movement and their present location. Disturbingly, Sir Percy tells Rob of what is to be done with Mike if he is found: a certain surgical procedure on the brain which renders the subject docile and obedient. He also tells Rob of the secret group of overseers responsible for the present system (the titular "Guardians") and, having appraised the intelligence and initiative Rob has shown in coming this far, offers to recruit him.

  • I remember reading that in English class.
    – Alastair
    Aug 8, 2012 at 13:39

Been looking for this myself after remembering reading it at school, I think this could be it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Guardians_(novel)

  • Welcome to SF&F! This answer could really be improved by adding some text as to why you think this matches the novel in the question. You will generate more upvotes with a more detailed answer.
    – kjw
    Feb 14, 2017 at 22:45

Fahrenheit 451 could be what you are looking for, not sure though.

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    I don't have any memories of "boy crosses into a psuedo-aristocratic countryside" in Farenheit 451, and what I do remember seems significanly different from the outline described in the question. Jul 11, 2013 at 14:49

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