Dumarest has been working as a security guard on Tradum. There he's met Leon Harvey, a starry-eyed youngster who claims to come from a planet called "Nerth". Obviously this catches Dumarest's attention, but he suspects a Cyclan trap. When Leon is injured he helps him get treatment, then secretly doses him with a hypnotic drug and pumps him for information. The boy's story holds up and Dumarest finds he is one of the Original People, the secretive religious sect that may know the location of Earth. The appearance of a cyber means Dumarest has to make tracks, so after some close scrapes he sets off for Shajok, the planet that Leon came from. There a Hausi merchant, Bhol Kinabalu, arranges for him to enter the service of Iduna and her brother, Jalch Moore, an unhinged individual who is determined to hunt down the legendary Kheld in the dangerous mountains. Dumarest accompanies them hoping to find Leon's settlement and the secrets of the Original People.
This book, like several of the preceding installments, involves extended passages of Dumarest employing his wilderness survival skills. This emphasizes his toughness, and the fact that he's a survivor. His ability to survive in hostile environments thus becomes an implicit justification of his often brutal behavior. In these books it's a hard universe where only a hard man can survive.
There is also a scene in which Dumarest stabs to death a mortally wounded companion to put him out of his misery. This has been a preoccupation of his in previous books. He holds the conviction that that a suffering individual should be swiftly dispatched, and anyone who tries to keep them alive is, as he commented in an earlier volume, exhibiting "unconscious sadism". But given his own violent nature, and his near obsession with the idea of putting people out of their misery it strikes me that the sadism lies somewhere else. Needless to say any talk of mercy killing is quickly forgotten whenever Dumarest himself is mortally wounded, at which point no medical treatment is sparred.
The misogyny is getting pretty thick in these books. The traitor to the Cyclan is a transsexual woman who "would do anything, anything to be a man." "She was insane," opines Dumarest, after having slashed off her cloths with his knife. The psycho-sexual implications of such an act hardly need comment.
And Dumarest has left off slapping faces and gone back to his old carotid pinching ways. At least he's not using it as a hand-to-hand combat technique anymore, just using it to render a subdued opponent unconscious. So it's more plausible than before. No doubt we'll see more pinching in the adventures to come.