Ben Turnbull, the hero of John Updike's eighteenth novel, is a sixty-six-year-old retired investment counselor living north of Boston in the year 2020. A recent war between the United States and China has thinned the population and brought social chaos. The dollar has been locally replaced by Massachusetts scrip; instead of taxes, one pays protection money to competing racketeers. Nevertheless, Ben's life, traced by his journal entries over the course of a year, retains many of its accustomed comforts, as supervised by his vibrant wife, Gloria. He plays golf; he pays visits to his five children and ten grandchildren. Something of a science buff, he finds his personal history caught up in the disjunctions and vagaries of the "many-worlds hypothesis derived from the indeterminacy of quantum theory. His identity branches into variants extending back through history and ahead in the evolution of the universe, as both it and his own mortal, nature-enshrouded existence move toward the end of time.