On a harsh but roughly Earthlike planet, Kristina and Zeitman, an estranged husband-and-wife research team, struggle in their separate ways for a deeper understanding of the native Ree'hd. Ree'hdworld, with its fragile ecology and puzzling distribution of populations, seems about to be overwhelmed by a tide of human fugitives from a cosmic plague; the Ree'hd themselves are showing a new hostility to the presence of mankind. The reappearance of a legendary, early explorer seems to herald some baffling new development in the shadowy history of the planet's several races. Zeitman's final unscrambling of genetic and cultural puzzles is achieved at a terrible personal cost. Holdstock's writing is often naively perfunctory, but there is much here that reveals an honest and probing imagination at work.