An ingeniously constructed computer-as-autocrat intrigue--which culminates, unfortunately, in one of the hoariest notions in all sf. Super-computer TECT rules Earth, and everything's rosy--except that TECT seems determined to persecute unassuming Sandor Courane by forcing him into jobs for which is is patently unsuited. After Courane's third failure, TECT exiles him via matter transmitter to planet D, Epsilon Eridani, where he joins an agricultural community of fellow-exiles. But D's occupants are dying off at an alarming rate from an affliction (resembling Alzheimer's disease) whose most insidious symptom is progressive memory loss. Courane assumes that the exiles form two groups: incurables, sent to D to die, and prisoners (like Courane himself), whose punishment is to care for the dying. But D itself is the source of the disease, Courane discovers, so he struggles to find a cure and some explanations. All this is presented in a series of multiple overlapping flashbacks, a clever device which successfully conceals the plot's thin-ness. But, aside from TECT, whose chat strongly resembles that of Doonesbury's Richard Nixon, the characters are abjectly wimpish. Technically, then, something of an improvement over previous Effinger novels (Death in Florence, Heroics), but the ending--slipping from pathos to bathos--will leave many readers feeling cheated.