Peter F. Hamilton By the twenty-fifth century, the brilliant notion of a star-trading civilization linking Earth to its interstellar colonies has petered out – the victim of stock market manipulation and cost-benefit analysis. Trade has been replaced by a business-friendly policy of “asset realization” … which some might call piracy.” “Corporate starships of the Zantiu-Braun 3rd Fleet deploy to colonies, disgorging hordes of invulnerable soldiers called Skins. Enforcing their dictates with both orbital weapons and civilian hostages, the Skins loot whole planets, leaving only poverty, misery, and an industrial infrastructure – so that a few years later, Z-B can harvest again.” “But on the bucolic world of Thallspring, Z-B’s plans are about to go badly awry, all because of: Sgt. Lawrence Newton: In his teens, Lawrence abandoned a life of privilege and love to pursue a dream of seeing the stars. Twenty years of violence as a Skin have destroyed all his hopes and desires, except for one …; Denise Ebourn: An energetic, dedicated young schoolteacher with a penchant for spinning fables of wondrous lost worlds, Denise is also a guerrilla resistance leader whose tactics would put Che Guevara, Ho Chi Minh, or even George Washington to shame. But then, they were only human …; and Simon Roderick: Z-B’s Director of Internal Security serves management with a transcendent dedication that nobody, perhaps not even he himself, can hope to understand . . .” Now Lawrence just wants to buy his way out of Z-B by stealing a treasure he believes is stashed in a backwater province on Thallspring. Yet his “score” is also the one thing that Denise will protect at all costs, and that Roderick must possess at any price.