Hard-working but noncommittal debut: a smooth but rather drab recycling of standard near-future ideas. Blumlein's future world comprises rich, protected enclaves tinged by horrid slums whose inhabitants commonly sell their bodies in order to pay the rent. Compulsive eater and physician Jules Ebert, who operates a clinic in the slums, has fallen in love with slum-dweller and biochemist Jessica. While Jules ponders the odd symptoms of a new and apparently deadly virus, Barea disease, Jessica determines to go to planet Eridis, where in chilly underground caverns a race of genetically engineered, fat-sheathed slaves labor to harvest a fungus, source of the antibacterial wonder-drug, Mutacillin. Jules, after a frustrating series of bureaucratic delays, follows Jessica to Eridis where he will be physician to the Domers, whose bodies, after five years' labor, wear out and are recycled into another crop of clones. Gradually, guided by Jessica, Jules comes to see the vicious system for what it is (the Domers are capable of emotion and intelligence, but are kept ignorant and perpetually hungry). But Jessica has brought Barea disease to Eridis; the disease, however, carries its victim's memories to a new host, so though Jessica's body dies, she lives on--inside Jules' head! Jules/Jessica hasten to spread the disease to the Domers, so that when the new clones appear they all have each other's memories--and thus will fight against their enslavement. Slow-moving, intermittently absorbing stuff, which the blandness of narrator Jules doesn't help. Tantalizing, sometimes--but it just lays there.