One day, a boy fell down a hole in time and banged his head. When he woke up he met the Emperor Nero, who promptly killed himself.
- A dozen English public schoolboys on a school trip to Rome in a prosperous and technologically advanced Europe worlds away from a post-Brexit Britain marred by food shortages, poverty and a totalitarian state. Outsider Miliband Monk is captivated by the gleaming metropolis, and desperate to stay out of the way of his tormentors, who bully him for his sexuality in ultra-conservative Britain, and longs for what he sees as the liberal utopia of modern Europe. When a life-changing shock leads him to pound a bullying classmate and dramatically injure him, and Monk flees into the city, and vanishes completely.
Twenty-five years later, Monk’s best friend Banks returns to Rome part of a rare diplomatic mission to the continent, and meets a wild-haired vagrant whom he realizes is a much aged, haggard Monk, who claims he has been in ancient Rome for all these years, living under the Caesars. His emergence sparks a conflict in the tinderbox of modern diplomatic relations, whose mysterious origins hark back to the ancient world itself…
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