The author uses seemingly limitless imagination and skill to carry the reader through the intricacies of this science fiction/fantasy/adventure. Nik, a teenage consigned to a latterday ghetto, the Dipple, also has a solitary existence because of an extreme facial disfigurement. He seeks refuge in a dream world, then is out of it when the Guild (a powerful outlaw group) attempts to obtain information locked in the brain of a small boy, Vandy. Vandy is conditioned; the information will be automatically erased if he is forced or frightened by a stranger. Vandy also has his own fantasy world, and an imaginary companion-hero he calls Hacon. Nik is then offered--by the Guild--a chance to escape from the Dipple and to wear the face of Hacon providing he can enlist Vandy's confidence, elicit the information... the story has an exhausting intensity, excellent detail and a feeling for fright.