Jack Randall is an unlikely hero. He is an ex-cop who spent time fighting in “the gap”—an alternate reality that exists in the gaps between physical objects in the real world. The only way to remain sane in the gap is to take enough drugs to block the gap’s insanity and replace it with the drug-induced hallucinations. Of course, Jack became addicted.
At the end of his downhill slide, Jack finds himself working under an assumed name guarding a farm where spares—human clones raised for their parts—are raised. Spares live in damp tunnels where they never learn to walk or talk. However, Jack is not one to dwell on the bad side. He makes a concerted effort to get himself into even more trouble.
Jack leaves the farm, taking several spares with him. Oddly enough, these few spares can walk and talk. They cling to each other and to Jack, who attempts, step by backward step, to get the spares to safety.
Jack’s sudden departure from the farm does not go unnoticed, and everywhere he goes, dead bodies pile up. He is not sure whether someone is after him because he took the spares, or if it is because of something in his past. He even wonders if someone is not after him at all, but is trying to get one of the spares instead.
Michael Marshall Smith’s backdrop for the story is a future world that the reader may find disturbingly possible. Although Jack seems more of a loser than a winner, he is an oddly sympathetic character that the reader will cheer for in the end.