From The Backcover of the New English Library Editions
Mars in the 1990s is fast becoming Earth's most neglected colony. Short of water and no more than marginally suitable for settlement in the first place, it had always been a struggle to attract emigrants from Home.
Now, as Earth's attention and energies are increasingly directed elsewhere, the problems are worsening. Supplies are difficult to obtain, new technology reaches the colony late or not at all. To know that you live in a low-priority backwater is not encouraging of initiative or innovation. As things fall apart and the machinery of civilisation grinds slow, the repairman becomes the symbol of society. To get by is all that most people can hope for.
From The Backcover of the 1999 Millenium Edition
Mars. A desolate place, forgotten by Earth. Isolated homesteaders huddle along the lines of the great canals, in thrall to Arnie Kott and his plumbing union, which controls the vital water supply. Kott's manipulations poison the lives of those he draws to him: his mistress Doreen; Jack Bohlen, the schizoid repairman she comes to love; Manfred, an autistic child plagued with memories of a terrifying future; even the poor native Bleekmen of Mars.