Card at instances seems to painting the military characters extra sympathetically than does the film; however in the end the message is strongly antimilitary in both. Also hanging are the sex-role reversals labored out within the plot, and the sturdy affirmation of love and marriage made by both the movie and novel. Mutants and people battle savagely on an Earth largely destroyed forty years earlier in a short atomic holocaust. Despite antiscientific bias on the a part of the common public, a remnant of the government has saved research going and is preparing a devastating nuclear attack on the last stronghold of the enemy. The hero, a telepathic astronomer, is suspected of being a mutant, however he proves to be a descendant of an alien race which landed on Earth five thousand years earlier.