This novel tells the story of the colonisation of the planet Plateau, a Venus-like planet of the Tau Ceti system. The planet's major feature was the plateau on Mount Lookitthat, the only habitable area of the planet, with an area about the size of US state of California.
The plot starts 300 years after the first landing on the planet with a man, Matthew Keller, escaping the police force by leaping off the sheer cliff that defines the plateau. At the bottom of the cliffs, the 40 mile high cliffs, was the true surface of the planet. Hot enough to melt lead and with an atmosphere 60 times as thick as Earth's.
Killing yourself in this way was considered to be the worst of all possible crimes as none of the body would then be available to the Organ Banks.