Earth has been at war with the Pythsyccans for over forty years. Mack Tavernor lost his family in the war when he was eight. When he was old enough he joined the Federation Force to fight the aliens. Years later he retires and settles on the Poet’s World, Mnemosyne, because it’s quiet and peaceful.
Mack’s lady friend Lissa is the planet administrator’s daughter. She also thirty years younger than Mack. It bothers him but not her.One night Mack gets into a bar fight and is subdued with a stun gun and arrested. He’s been in jail for two days. He finds out things have changed while he was in his cell.
Quiet time is over as the Federation is moving its military headquarters to the planet and it’s under martial law. Mack heads for home only to find a military checkpoint and his house and surrounding forest all gone. He gets into a brawl with some soldiers and Lissa comes by and gets him out.
He finds out that Lissa arranged the scene in the bar. She says she did it to protect him since he would have been killed defending his home. Until he finds a place he’ll stay at the Adminstrator’s home. While recovering from his bruises he gets a visit from Lissa’s three year old sister Bethia. She’s a healer and takes away some of his pain.
Mack decides to move out and on his way into the house he’s met by Lieutenant-Colonel Gervaise Farrell. He’s a nephew of the Supreme President of the Federation. He tries to block Mack from going inside. Mack uses some pressure point techniques to cool him down.
Lissa’s father comes out and introduces the two. Gervaise is also staying at the house. He has eyes for Lissa. Later some artists from the bar lead a protest to the military complex. It’s a disaster as some are killed and the rest run off into a forest.
Mack and Lissa finally do what they always wanted to do and then Mack leaves and heads for the forest. He meets up with some protesters who are eventually killed and Mack is wounded and on his own. He breaks into a Doctor’s house and does what he can for himself.
Now he heads back to Lissa. He breaks into the house and Bethia hides him out while Gervaise and armed guards search for him.
To go further would be too much of a spoiler as the book takes some unexpected turns. If you’ve never read Bob Shaw and see this one, grab it.