Oliver Marland was an ordinary crew man on a routine flight before disaster overtook the 5X5. The strange sequence of events affected the minds of the entire ship's company - Marland alone was capable of getting them home safely.
The changes had come to Oliver in a different way. They had set him apart from the others. He was feared and distrusted - not without reason! This was the paradox; they needed him - he needed them; but both sides feared the other too much for compromise.
The only chance of breaking the deadlock lay with the unknown inhabitants of the planet they had been sent to survey - and the natives were not renowned for their generous amiability!