In the fifth volume of Wingrove's immense Chung Kuo saga of Earth in the 23rd century (The Stone Within, 1993, etc.), the rule of the seven Chinese overlords, or T'angs, is crumbling, as the need for change grows more powerful than the T'angs' ability to suppress it. This time, the focus shifts to Mars, where Howard DeVore, the secret puppet master behind the Dispersionists (revolutionaries), is slowly acquiring intelligent computers and self-aware programs. DeVore is also concealing vital facts: that Mars possesses vast undisclosed mineral wealth; that he has built underground factories all over Mars; and that the real population is many times that declared in the last T'ang census. Indeed, DeVore's imminent war against Chung Kuo on Mars is but a prelude to a projected invasion of Earth itself. Like the other books in the series: vast, dense, overpopulated, bookish, absorbing for addicts, impenetrable to outsiders.