The luxury city of Tikil has attached to it the Dipple, the dumping ground of refugees who will never return home after the peace treaty gave up their planets. Troy Hogan, orphan, tries to survive on day labor, and finds a job at a store selling exotic animals to the rich — and carrying out other tasks behind that front. Not to mention that some of the animals are more than they seem.
The novel Forerunner Foray also opens in Tikil.
- Advanced Ancient Acropolis: A Forerunner location; the one attempt to investigate caused disaster.
- After-Action Patch-Up: Troy's burnt arm, after the attempted theft.
- Enemy Mine: Rerne suggest to Troy that they face this and should band together.
- Fantastic Diet Requirement: Kyger claims that the Terran animals can not survive without the special food he provides, explaining to a patrolman why stealing one would be folly. Later, Troy sees them hunting and eating freely in the wild, revealing that this was a lie.
- Fantastic Underclass: The planet Korwar is the home of the incredibly rich, but it has a dark spot: the Dipple, a slum filled with the dregs of the galaxy. Many of them are war refugees and all of them are poor. Some join the powerful Thieves' Guild or sell themselves into offworld slavery to escape.
- Friend to All Living Things: Troy has a knack for working with animals.
- Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!: The animals were threatened with death for escape.
- Idle Rich: The wealthy are all far from home and any duties they might perform.
- I Was Named "My Name": Subverted: main character Troy Horan communicates telepathically with a group of animals — a pair of foxes, a pair of cats, and a kinkajou — with intelligence upgraded to human level. When he asks about their names, the female cat says somewhat disdainfully that they were given "Man's names!", and Troy senses a hint "that there were other forms of identification more subtle and intelligent, beyond the reach of a mere human." There's a touch of Hypocritical Humor there, as she told him that after she referred to the male fox by his human-given name.
- Just the First Citizen: Citizen Dragur, though wealthy enough to frequent Kyger's.
- Make the Dog Testify: Using machinery, to be followed by death — or so Zul argues they will do
- Our Monsters Are Weird: The hur-hur almost revolts Troy with its appearance.
- Parental Abandonment: Troy's father joined the armed forces, and his mother took ill and died.
- Releasing from the Promise: Troy would need this to leave; he has yet to sign the contract, but he said he would.
- Speaks Fluent Animal: Troy finds that he can communicate with the animals.
- Theme Initials: All of the Terran animals have names starting with "S".
- There Are No Coincidences: Dragur says one is so convenient, he almost believes in Fate.
- Uplifted Animal: It's not clear how, but the animals are clearly human, or near so, in intelligence.