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'There were two kinds of landscape characteristic of the inner planets of the Sun: the purposeful and the desolate.'
The planet Quinta is pocked with ugly mounds and covered by a spiderweb-like network draped from spindly poles. It is a kingdom of phantoms and of a beauty afflicted by madness. The Earth spaceship Hermes arrives on Quinta with the best of intentions towards the humans' 'brothers in intelligence'. But something on the planet has gone terribly wrong...