A small town is nearly drown by continuous heavy rain. Once before it was some kind of resort, a decent sunny place to get away from it all. But not now. Viktor Banev, who is a popular writer, poet and bard, is sent to exile to his rainy native town after having a dispute on "cultural matter" with the president of the country, who long ago was a hero of some sort of liberation war, but now he is just an old, arrogant, corrupted, authoritarian ruler. Banev is a product of his time. He adores bohemian live style. He drinks heavily, he is prone to overeating delicious food, likes women. However he has strong objection to injustice, lie, oppressions.
He arrives at his dismal native town only to find out that the place has become some sort of stage for eery, disturbing events. The children of the town no longer belong to their parents. They don't want to have anything in common with them. They have become frighteningly smarter. At the age of 12 they already read and understood most complicated books on philosophy, mathematics, ethics, physics.
The old good citizens blame the Leprosorium and its inhabitants for all their disasters. Many scientist and just prominent people, who happened to visit the town at some point in the past, all of the sudden became infected by an unknown decease, which resembles lepra, and then they got confined behind the walls of the Leprosorium. Soon afterwards the Rain began and children became strangers to their own mothers and fathers because the sick people from the Leprosorium taught them something preparing them for a new life. Now army, secret services and many dark forces are involved trying haplessly to understand what's going on and to control it.
Banev himself has a teenage daughter, born in unhappy, ruined marriage, and he doesn't know how to deal with her now. He hates the country he lives in but unable to get rid of his own wicked habits. He doesn't know if what's happening to the children is bad or good.
This book is about the conflict between the old and the new, about evolution and progress. It vividly describes the decadent world of ancient superstitions, hatred, intolerance and other people's sins and suggests a new wave, which overcomes all these in one unexpected powerful sweep. The central character of Viktor Banev strives to resolve his inner conflict. Being lethally corrupted by the old world he grew up in, he clearly understands the need for the changes but sees no place for himself in it.
One of the most prominent and profound books, yet neglected, written by Strugatskii bros, which can be compared to theirs "The Roadside Picnic" and "It's hard to be a God."