This is the story of a college professor and his family whose small Midwestern town is evacuated after an industrial accident. . . . Jack Gladney is a professor of Hitler studies at the College-on-the-Hill.This is an America where no one is responsible or in control; all are receptors, receivers of stimuli, consumers. Some join Simuvac, which signs up local school children as volunteer victims in simulated evacuations. Gladney's wife, Babette, a low-key and adaptable faculty wife who reads tabloids to the blind and teaches senior citizens' classes in posture, is distinguished by her forgetfulness and her preoccupation with death.