Long after the Two Wars of the early twenty-first century, petty warlords on Earth rule what remains of the civilized world. They fight their endless battles with each other while, in the wilderness beyond their borders, the New Tribes grow stronger every year.|
The warlords feed their armies with crops grown in agricultural slave labor camps, the largest of which is Jackson Camp in the Sovereign State of Michigan.
A girl called Cassie lives there, the daughter of a dead priestess of the Tribes. Cassie is lucky to have a job in the House at Jackson Camp: cleaning the floors and bathrooms for officers while she dreams of the Cities in Space.
But only field hands are ever taken. The few who survive their twenty years' sentence to the Camps are sold to New Manhattan: a great colony among the asteroids where they will never be hungry again, and where they will never be beaten or fall ill.
They will also not be citizens until another twenty-year sentence has been served: the term of their indenture to whatever corporation or Great Family that has purchased them. Even then, they will never really be first-class citizens. But their children will be free.
Peter McKennen lives in the first and greatest of the Cities in Space: New Manhattan. The City was founded by his grandfather Ian, who long ago led a band of rebel American military personnel away from their base on the Moon to the asteroids and the beginning of Solar Civilization.
Peter shares none of his family's concerns: neither his uncle John's management of the family's wealth, nor his aunt Sarah's clandestine involvement with radical Abolitionists. Peter's interests are in his AI research, his hobby of self-modification that the research has engendered, and his use of the powerful new entheogenic drug Gnosis. Peter can easily afford even his most immoderate enthusiasms: he is the second-richest man in Space.
In Jackson Camp, Cassie dreams of the Cities in Space, but she knows that, as a house servant, she will never be allowed to go. High in his Spoke apartment, Peter takes his drugs, indulges his passions, and plans an elaborate party.
But the wind of change is blowing, across the fields of the Earth and through the hundred mile cylinder of New Manhattan. That wind will find both Peter and Cassie, and it will move their lives without regard for plans, or hopes, or fears -- as it will the lives of many others.
Wayne Denning, the most capable and ambitious officer in Michigan's military, will risk his life to advance his career.
Dana Kelley, the daughter of a poor farmer, will lose her home and set off in search of another.
Lauren Waybright, working at an office in the City, will go to a restaurant expecting to write a review. Instead she will find love -- but with a man of dangerous secrets.
And Ian McKennen, the City's founder, will remember the terrible role he played in the Last War from his position as leader of the American Lunar Polar Expedition. He will remember his retirement, many years later, to life as an explorer. But he will awaken with no understanding of how he has become a younger man, or of how he has been returned to New Manhattan thirty-five years after his last memories. His last memories that include his death in the storms of Jupiter.