The Park Service Summary & Study Guide

Ryan Winfield
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The Park Service Summary & Study Guide Description

The Park Service Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on The Park Service by Ryan Winfield.

The Park Service is the first novel in the Park Service Trilogy by Ryan Winfield. In this novel, Aubrey Van Houten lives in an underground compound where humankind has taken refuge after a nuclear war. Aubrey has just turned fifteen and is about to take a test that decides what job and on what level of the compound Aubrey will live. He is afraid that he will not do well, however, he is pleased when he discovers he has done so well that he is to be the first in generations to move up to the first level. On the trip to Level 1, Aubrey is in an accident which leads him to discover that the world he had been told was stuck under ice is really a beautiful, thriving place. The Park Service is a dystopian novel that makes the reader wonder if saving the world will require the ultimate sacrifice or if there truly is no hope.

Aubrey Van Houten is a fifteen year old kid who is on the threshold of manhood. In his society, children go to school and live with their parents until they are fifteen. The children then take a test that determines what their careers will be and on what level of their underground society they will live on. After the children move on, the parents retire at the age of thirty-five and are sent to Eden, a place where they can have anything they want and be with all the friends and family who retired before them.

Aubrey is nervous about his test, but he finishes it surprisingly fast. Soon afterward, Aubrey learns that he has gotten a perfect skill and will be the first in generations to move to the first level. Aubrey says an awkward goodbye to his father before taking the elevator up. On the second level, Aubrey boards a train that is to take him to the first level. However, during the ride, the train derails and throws Aubrey’s car onto its side. Aubrey climbs out of the broken train car and finds himself out in the open for the first time in his life. Aubrey was raised with the idea that the surface world was enduring a second ice age because of the nuclear war that destroyed the former society. However, the world appears to be a rich, thriving place.

Holding on to the train tracks, Aubrey climbs down the trellis and into a lush meadow. Aubrey can see fire in the distance, so he begins walking in that direction. However, Aubrey’s body is not prepared for the exposure to the sun or some of the bacteria and viruses that exist on the surface. Aubrey becomes very ill and collapses as he reaches the ocean. Someone picks up Aubrey and takes him to a cave where he is cared for by an unseen group of women.

When Aubrey recovers from his illness, he discovers that he has been abandoned by his rescuers. Aubrey begins to walk again and runs into a young man catching pigeons. Aubrey helps the young man catch and clean the pigeons. Later, Aubrey convinces the young man to take him back to his camp. There, Aubrey learns, the small clan had made the conscious choice to abandon Aubrey and do not want them with him now. However, the father of the young man, agrees to allow Aubrey to stay after he recites a poem for them. This man wants his children and grandchildren to learn to read.

Aubrey remains with the clan and becomes close friends with Jimmy, the young man. As Aubrey grows stronger he also becomes more comfortable with this clan and his new world. However, danger lurks in this world. Jimmy tells Aubrey about an entity he knows only as the Park Service. Jimmy, in fact, had once believed Aubrey was a part of the Park Service because of the badge on his clothing. Then, a ship attacks the clan, killing everyone except for Aubrey and Jimmy.

Aubrey treats Jimmy’s wounds and cleans up the bodies left from the massacre. Aubrey then insists that he must go to find the Park Service so that he can stop them from hurting more people. It is a long journey over a treacherous mountain. When they arrive in a valley on the other side of the mountain, they find a compound that was once a ski lodge. At the compound, Aubrey spots a beautiful girl his own age. The girl, Hannah, invites Aubrey and Jimmy into the compound, but Jimmy soon leaves. Alone with Hannah, Aubrey learns that her father is Dr. Robert Radcliffe, the founder of Aubrey’s underground society. This would make Dr. Radcliffe over nine hundred years old.

Aubrey learns that before the nuclear war that destroyed the world, Dr. Radcliffe and his team of scientists had perfected a way to stop aging. The group then began experiments in the underground bunkers just before the war began. Dr. Radcliffe and his people remained in the underground society for generations after the war, building the new society. When they discovered that the world had regenerated itself, they decided it was their responsibility to ensure that the world remain undamaged by mankind. For that reason, they have watched over the world, killing all survivors on the surface they could find. At the same time, they kept the people in the underground bunkers alive to create the equipment necessary in aiding in this mission. When all the people on the surface are dead, Dr. Radcliffe and his people agreed they would destroy the underground bunker and take their own lives. However, that has failed to happen and now they are all dying from an inability to regenerate brain cells. For this reason, Dr. Radcliffe has brought Aubrey to the surface to mate with his daughter and continue their mission.

After witnessing his father’s death in Eden, Aubrey destroys Eden. Dr. Radcliffe becomes angry and decides to destroy Aubrey’s underground society. Aubrey must make a decision, to stop Dr. Radcliffe but cause collateral damage or allow his childhood home and all the people in the underground bunker to die. The decision is taken out of Aubrey’s hands when Mrs. Radcliffe blows a charge that causes a small tsunami that wipes out all of the immortal scientists and their dark operations. Now Aubrey, Hannah, and Jimmy must decide how to save the world and whether or not to use Dr. Radcliffe’s discovery to live an abnormally long life.

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