Rat Korga, the only survivor of the destruction of the planet Rhyonon, is an individual Delany first empties of character, then shrouds in mystery. While a teenager, Korga chose to undergo Radical Anxiety Termination (RAT), an operation that destroys the brain cells that produce violence and antisocial behavior, rendering him incapable of anger and destructive emotion. Korga, now called Rat because of this surgical procedure, has become a slave of the RAT Institute, for which he must work in a series of unskilled jobs, directed by abusive supervisors. After years of slave labor, including an illegal sale to an individual who sexually abuses him, Korga is the sole survivor after a fireball hits the planet. Delany uses a third-person point of view in the opening section of the novel to help portray Rat Korga as a dehumanized slave, a subhuman owned and used by others. Readers enter his mind only briefly, adding to the mystery of his character.
Eventually discovered by relief members of the Web, an intergalactic organization dedicated to maintaining a communications network among the six thousand inhabited worlds, Korga is healed of his physical wounds and fitted with special rings that reintegrate much of the cranial short-circuiting that RAT effected. Now capable of communication and sophisticated social interaction, Korga seeks a new world to replace Rhyonon, the home he never really understood. Korga is brought by the Web to the planet Velm, where he is...
(The entire section is 549 words.)