Prequel to The Final Encyclopedia (1984) and part of Dickson's multivolume Childe Cycle, which describes the future history of the human Splinter Cultures-psychic-whiz Exotics, warrior Dorsai, religious Friendlies, and so forth. Bleys Ahrens is a crossbreed, of Exotic and Friendly parents, and a supergenius to boot. After early Exotic schooling, he is sent to the Friendly World Association, where the simple life-style and stringent religious backdrop appeal to him, even though he can never share the people's true faith. Here, he meets his powerful half-brother Dahno, who is slowly and ambitiously building an interplanetary network of influential Others (fellow crossbreeds). Eventually, Bleys agrees to assist Dahno while privately intending later to take over the organizations for his own purposes: Bleys perceives the Splinter Worlds to be nonviable in the long run, so his long-range goal is to reunite them under the control of Earth and himself. The plan's outcome leads to the power struggle with Hal Mayne in The Final Encyclopedia. Absorbing, sometimes, particularly in its description of Bleys's upbringing among the religious Friendlies, but it lacks overall purpose and a conclusion-which, in any case, is already known to series fans.