Hundreds of years after civilisation has been destroyed by nuclear war, the Earth is divided between the Trackers of the Amtrak Federation – a community living in vast subterranean cities – and the Mutes, who have evolved to withstand the radiation that has driven their foes underground. A long war for possession of the overground has killed and enslaved many of the Mutes, leaving only the Plainfolk to resist the Federation.
After escaping from the clan M'Call in his handmade glider, wingman Steve Brickman expects a hero's welcome from his fellow Trackers. Kidnapped on his first mission above ground by the Mutes, he has spent the last five months under the enforced tutelage of Mr Snow, clan M'Call's wise and magically gifted wordsmith. The months have also garnered a friendship with Cadillac, Mr Snow's protégé, a dawning love of the beautiful Clearwater, and a realisation that the Mutes are not the sub-humans that his masters would have him believe.
But instead of a happy homecoming, he receives suspicion and interrogation. Still officially 'dead' until he receives the proper clearance, Brickman must face long hours of speculation and questioning at the hands of the First Family. Only the chance of seeing his kin-sister Roz – with whom he shares a psychic connection – offers any comfort.
He is soon drawn into the complicated world of AMEXICO, a top-secret intelligence force where nothing is as it seems, and Brickman must face the reality that everything he has believed in could be false. If the First Family have lied to them about the Mutes, then what else have they been covering up? Is there really any harmful radiation left in the blue-sky world at all?
Split by a terrible division of loyalties, what will Brickman choose? The world he knows of order and duty? Or the new life glimpsed through his love for Clearwater? Either way, his role in the Mute prophesy of the Talisman is far from over.
First Family, first published in 1985, is the second instalment of Patrick Tilley's internationally best selling science fiction epic, The Amtrak Wars Saga.