In the 22nd Century, the Earth is ruled by the ˝New Men˝, humans with superhuman mental abilities, who share power with ˝Unusuals˝ that possess psionic abilities, such as telepathy, telekinesis and precognition. (In its use of psionic abilities as a major plot element, this work is similar to Ubik.) To fight them, Thors Provoni has gone deep into space to find help.
He is returning with a sentient protoplasmic alien being, a ˝Friend from Frolix 8˝, (known as Morgo Rahn Wilc) to fight for the ˝Old Men˝ (non-telepathic humanity, also incapable of enhanced cognitive abilities).
Against this background, Nick Appleton (an Old Man) and Willis Gram (an Unusual) are political rivals.
Initially compliant to the ˝New Men˝/˝Unusual˝ regime, Appleton’s son Bobby fails a Civil Service examination which is deliberately geared toward failing ˝Old Man˝ applicants.
At the same time, Terran authorities are holding ˝Under Man˝ activist Cordon imprisoned, preparing for his execution.
Appleton becomes politicised, and falls for Charlotte (˝Charley˝) Boyer, a sixteen-year-old subversive.
She is involved with alcoholic Denny (in this future, alcohol prohibition has apparently returned as a social policy).
After the authorities discover that Appleton has become ’subversive,’ they attempt to apprehend him and Charley, whom Willis Gram is also obsessed with.
Meanwhile, Thors Provoni’s craft has eluded Terran fleet defences and is rapidly nearing Earth, leading to paranoid fears from the erstwhile governing elite about the possibility of violent alien invasion.
In the event, Provoni does land, but Morgo Rahn Wilc protects him from an assassination attempt.
Provoni is actually a ˝New Man˝ and an ˝Unusual˝ at the same time himself, and with the assistance of his alien companion, he strips all Unusuals of their psionic abilities, and all New Men of their advanced cognitive abilities, rendering the New Men intellectually disabled and only capable of childlike cognition.