The protagonist is Van Humphries, the son of a plutocrat Martin Humphries. He had been the unfavorite son due to his's mother Death by Childbirth, but at least Martin had always had the eldest, most beloved son...up until he ends up dying on the Venusian surface. Instead of trying to cherish his other offspring more, Martin decides to completely cut off his allowance, and proclaim that the only money Van might ever get from him now is a ten billion dollar prize - if he ventures onto the Venusian surface, and manages to retrieve his brother's remains, something no-one has ever done before.
This book contains examples of:
- AB Positive: Lars is able to supply a treatment for Van's condition. Makes sense, considering he's Van's biological father.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: One character comments that the microbes in the Venusian atmosphere are just as susceptible to death by vacuum as are humans. Played straight by the organism on the surface; there's only one of them, and it has fingers in the entire planet.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Martin Humphries, a man rich enough to go ahead and offer a ten billion dollar award for recovering his son's remains, yet also ruthless enough to only do so in the hope it'll tempt his other son into going there and dying "with glory" as well.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Van's allowance is cut off in order to fund the ten billion dollar prize for finding his brother (and given his status as The Unfavorite it's actually kind of surprising that Martin gave him one in the first place). Van ends up winning said prize, and Martin is forced to pay it.
- Ill Boy: Van, almost perpetually so.
- Maternal Death? Blame the Child!: Van Humphries has been blamed by Martin for his mother's death during childbirth for pretty much his entire life.
- Stone Wall: Lars' ship, the Lucifer. His "overdesign" helps ensure the survival of the craft in the atmosphere of Venus. There's some concern as to whether or not it'll survive the trip back up due to the microbes nobody predicted would be there, but it manages.
- The Unfavorite: Van, whom Martin hates. It doesn't help that his mother died in childbirth. On top of that, Lars Fuchs, Martin's arch-nemesis, is actually Van's father.
- Used Future: If the art on the hardcover edition is anything to go by. The ship on the cover almost looks like it was kitbashed.