When 16-year-old, Jack Watson, and his three friends are chosen to compete in the Smartest Student in Australia competition they find themselves on a train hurtling through the Australian desert to Plato College, an isolated school owned by Sir Hubert Peabody. Soon Jack realises something is not right about Plato College. For one thing, all of the tutors and supervisors in charge of the 100 contestants look like robots, and the college is surrounded by high fences patrolled by armed guards.

Jack does some scouting around the college complex and discovers a plot so diabolical that it puts the lives of all the students and, perhaps, the world at risk... something so terrifying it leads him and his friends on a hair-raising escape into the desert with no food and water and little chance of survival. Jack and his friends must use all their intelligence and courage to try to defeat Sir Hubert’s wicked plan.