It is 1867 and winter in Ryazan, a city on the banks of the Oka River in Central Russia. Konstantin is ten years old. His days are full of dreams of flight - to Moscow, even to the silent stars. But then, one day, he catches cold in the freezing woods near his home and his own world becomes silent. Left deaf by scarlet fever, his outlook is desperate. Only his fascination with a newly mechanised age and his astonishing visions of humanity's future seem to offer him any sort of hope.
To escape the earth, Konstantin learns, he must travel at 11.2 kilometres per second - eight hundred times faster than an express train.