When Earthman Gary Towler is off work, he is a pariah. For his task as chief interpretor for the corrupt and tyrannical nuls makes other humans avoid him as a traitor. Nor is he trusted by the three-armed mammoth rulers themselves, especially when they learned that an envoy was on the way from their distant planetary headquarters to investigate charges of corruption on Earth. For the leaders realized that Gary knew too much. When the humans leading the underground rebellion demanded Gary’s aid or his life, he was caught between two untrustful forces. And his only way out was to make himself into a one-man third force against two worlds’ plotters.
Probably Aldiss’s least successful novel, although occasionally redeemed by flashes of humour (“Ninety-six million happens to be my lucky number,” the nul said.). Earth is on the receiving end of the Partussy-Earth Co-Prosperity Sphere, Partussy having four million other planets under its sway. Eventually, thanks to Towler, Earth manages to extricate itself. The character of Rivars, the patriot leader, was based on the heroic figure of General Grivas, who defied the British during the Cypriot struggle for independence in the late nineteen-fifties.
FIRST EDITION: Faber & Faber, 1967