Medium-future power struggle between a North America gripped by a techno-religious dictatorship, and an interplanetary corporation representing the last bastion of free enterprise: from the author of The Boat of a Million Years, Orion Shall Rise, etc. The doctrine of Avantism predicts a transcendent future for humanity; but, meanwhile, the real ruler of North America is secret police chief Enrique Sayre, whose best weapon is a computer-copied personality (``download'') of Avantism's main opponent--the late Fireball head honcho Anson Guthrie--that's been reprogrammed to accept Avantism. However, an unreconstructed download of Guthrie is still annoyingly at large and attempting to smuggle itself out of America in the company of ace Fireball pilot Kyra Davis. After many narrow escapes, Guthrie and Davis arrive on the moon, where Guthrie encourages the moon's independent rulers to help start a revolution to overthrow the repressive Avantists. Guthrie and a Davis download then head for Alpha Centauri to explore the only known habitable planet outside the solar system; back on Earth, meanwhile, advanced artificial intelligences fuse with human intellects to bring about the transcendence predicted by Avantism. In his career, Anderson has written dozens of wonderful short to medium-length stories (the Time Patrol series, etc.). Why he persists in grinding out ponderous, somnolent, bloated offerings like this is one of science fiction's enduring mysteries.