A "brisk and entertaining" novel of a barren, mysterious planet that may save humanity—or destroy it—by the author of Star Wars: Heir to the Empire (Publishers Weekly). Chasing a new frontier, humankind sends a manned starship into the universe and away from the overpopulated Earth in hopes of finding a new planet to colonize. But every Earthlike world they discover is already inhabited. As it turns out, the universe is a very crowded place. An alien council offers to lease the one remaining uninhabited world: Astra, a bleak and barren but serviceable planet. The new settlement, though, quickly experiences serious problems, from dying crops to the mysterious disappearance of anything and everything that is made of metal. And then Astra reveals a secret neither the aliens nor the human governments could ever have imagined.