The book picks up the story immediately after the end of The Garden of Rama. The book follows the story of Nicole Wakefield and her escape from imprisonment left at the cliffhanger of the previous book. At this point, the humans had already come into contact with two alien species known as "octospiders" and "myrmicats". The octospiders were a simple species until a space-faring species made contact with them and forever changed their society. By undergoing genetic enhancements, the octospiders became biological wizards and were eventually able to form a utopia of sorts. The myrmicats (named by Richard Wakefield, a combination of the Greek word for ant, myrmex, due to their ant-like appearance, and the English word "cat" due to their feline size and running gait) were a naturally heteromorphic species whose final form was a large, interconnected sentient mesh which was able to directly interface with the human brain through a network of fibers connected to the body. Through this medium, it was able to communicate to Richard the threat posed to the species by the violent colonists, and at the request of the myrmicats he leaves their habitat carrying some of their eggs for preservation.