Slippery Jim diGriz is in the process of robbing the new Mint on Paskonjak when the heist goes terribly wrong. Threatened with a horrific death, Slippery Jim is allowed to cut a deal with the Galactic League: voyage to the planet Liokukae and bring back a missing artifact - the only known evidence of alien life-forms found in 32,000 years of galactic exploration.
For diGriz there are a few catches. One is Liokukae itself - a dumping ground for the League's misfits, murderers, maniacs, and the incurably obnoxious. Another is a little matter of life and death. To ensure the utterly untrustworthy diGriz's cooperation, the League has given him a slow-acting poison, allowing him thirty days in which to succeed . . . or die.
Now the Stainless Steel Rat is on his way to a world that is hurtling backward down the evolutionary scale - a land of fanatic, goat-herding Fundamentaloids, murderous Machmen, and a rusty guru named Iron John. DiGriz has developed an almost perfect cover: a four-member rock band that has a way of giving its audiences what they want to hear.
But while the days tick away and diGriz's life expectancy lowers, the mission evolves from finding an artifact to liberating a planet . . . which is a tune the Stainless Steel Rat most certainly knows how to sing.