The book begins with a
"spatio-analyst" finding evidence in "the currents of
space" that a disaster is going to strike a planet. When he attempts to
contact the authorities about this, he is abducted to prevent him from
presenting his report. His mind is probed and he is left impaired. He is
found outside a town, mentally like a small child. With the aid of a childless
woman, he learns to take care of himself and even do a simple job in a
factory. But after a year, he begins to remember a few bits from his past.
The context is a planet in
colonial subjugation by another planet. The colony planet produces a commodity
that can't be produced elsewhere. The commodity is in demand in the galaxy.
It isn't as essential as the "spice" in Dune, but the planet is
important to the galactic powers because it is the sole source.
The book gives a strong
portrait of a colony - the natives poor and terrorized by the police force.
The colonial occupiers are affluent and confident of their position. There are
formal rules of respect natives are required to show to occupiers. We see the
areas the two groups live in.
The dynamics of the plot
aren't exactly "espionage" in general (although there are some
aspects of that). But power moves by various players are a crucial part of the
story and the puzzling situation. There are rival ruling families among the
occupiers. At the time of this story, Trantor is the largest empire in the
galaxy, but does not control it all - and the planets where the story takes
place are not in its domain. However, Trantor would prefer this strategic
commodity not to be controlled by others. It has its own agents and agendas
there. One of the main characters is a native who has a low post under the
occupiers, but who dislikes the occupiers. A representative from the
spatio-analyst's agency is searching for the missing analyst. The
spatio-analyst is remembering bits and pieces, but not a clear picture. All
going on while the clock seems to be ticking towards a catastrophe...
It's an interesting adventure with twists and turns.
The book is set in Asimov's
Foundation universe, but at an earlier time before there was a single galactic
empire. Humans have colonized much of the galaxy under various domains.