The dome cities of Four BEE, Four BAA and Four BOO exist on a planet that is mostly desert. Within the cities, men and women can live forever in near-total hedonism, in the midst of luxurious surroundings with lots of bizarre, beautiful amusements. "Jang", the younger immortals, are expected to be wild, crazy, impulsive teenager/college student types, eventually graduating to become "Older People". Every morning sparkles with radiant sunshine and ends with a gorgeous sunset. Bodies are amazingly glamorous or cutely outre. Robots and androids do all the work.
The protagonist is bored senseless.
The story follows her (sometimes him) as she tries to find something to give her life a bit more meaning. Eventually, of course, this gets her on the wrong side of the city's android authorities...
Tropes present in this book include:
- Body Backup Drive: Everyone in the cities is promptly picked up and has their "life-spark" transferred into a new body of their choosing upon death. Some characters actually take advantage of this to get around the normal time limit for body changes.
- Kind Hearted Cat Lover verging on Crazy Cat Lady: Thinta. She's a bit of a Cloud Cuckoo Lander as well. (Her name is an anagram of the author's; we're expected to draw our own conclusions.)
- Crystal Spires and Togas: Lots and lots and lots of crystal spires. Togas are never explicitly mentioned, but in this society anything is possible.
- Death Is Cheap: Due to the "life-spark" being rescued and placed in a new body upon death, death is never permanent. Even when someone decides they're done with life for real, their personality is simply wiped and placed in a new body.
- Domed Hometown: The three Fours Cities.
I had wished... to write a third book in which I would try to set out an alternative life-style, adventurous and stretching to mind and heart, but still, and importantly, free of the retributions of unprotected life. I did and do think a world would be feasible which gives pleasure and safety alongside excitement and development.
- There are actually four of these cities. Lee had planned to write a third book about Four BII, the city she never described, but her publisher didn't want it.
- Driven to Suicide: Danor, though see above.
- Everyone Is Bi and/or No Bisexuals: All the relationships we see until the end of part 2 are opposite-sex, but not necessarily opposite-gender (e.g. the protagonist and Danor.) The one same-sex couple we do see is implied to be more of an If It's You, It's Okay situation (one of the participants is male-identifying but stuck in a female body.) Basically, all the sex changes make it a little complicated.
- Fill It with Flowers and Hope Springs Eternal: In the first book, the narrator witnessed the incredible blooming of the desert after the annual rains; an ineffable, transcendant experience that ended with the accidental death of her pet, so that the memory of it was extremely painful. In the second book, now exiled to that same desert, a bizarre accident leads to her determination to cultivate a huge garden in the midst of the blazing waste. It's a near-sacred task for her, bringing a lot of other things to life besides plants. The story is how she does it.
- Food Fight: In Drinking Sapphire Wine, during a lunch break in the narrator's murder trial (attended by hundreds of curious Jang) the narrator's friend Mirri is furious with Zirk (the newly-resurrected murder victim) for having the audacity to make a pass at the narrator after having just been the chief witness for the prosecution. Mirri throws a bowl of cherries at Zirk, setting off a massive food fight.
- Free-Love Future: And how!
- ...although it is considered highly scandalous for Jang to have sex out of marriage; a typical chat-up line is 'Do you want to get married for a couple of hours?'.
- Older People, on the other hand, are not allowed to marry, so they cannot have sexual relations with Jang; this becomes a major subplot in the second book.
- Master Swordsman: In Drinking Sapphire Wine, the narrator is studying European Swordsmanship as a pastime. While perhaps not really a master as such, he knows what he's doing and is competent enough to win a duel against a much larger opponent (the aforesaid Zirk, whom he kills, setting off the rest of the plot). A popular Jang recreation center is the Adventure Palace, where you can play at this sort of "ancient grandeur" all you like.
- No Name Given: The protagonist.
- Suicide Is Painless: "Suiciding" is commonplace among Jang who want a new body outside of the usual time limit between changes. It's not exactly painless so much as consequence-less — the protagonist shares a fatal plane crash with a friend, and later grumbles "Why do you have to do it that way — it hurts". The friend replies "Pain is a reality."
- The Loins Sleep Tonight: Danor, at least when he/she tries to play along with the social norms.
- Uterine Replicator: Attempting to have a kid with yourself this way is not recommended.
- Winged Humanoid: One of many options for the bodies people design themselves, appearing a couple times.