This is not the run-of-the-mill sci fi space opera/adventure story, although it seems like it for 4/5ths of the novel. The title becomes more meaningful at the end. Not so much a "what if" book as a "what is" for the author (who was 24 at the time) and many young people today.
Kelly Freas' original cover art features a big floating female head...I would that he had not done that. Give me castles, spaceships, spacescapes, robot monks in cowls, OK, I love it...but please, no disembodied vacant-eyed heads bobbing off the page unless it's part of the plot.