Pandora's human inhabitants have been recovering land from the planet's raging seas at an increasing rate since the events of The Lazarus Effect. Using the massive stands of sentient kelp to buffer themselves from the wild ocean currents, they are creating new settlements; but in the shadow of those settlements, children are starving.
The planet is ruled by an ambitious clone known as The Director, whose repressive regime leads to uprisings which are punished by starvation. The resistance fighters' main hope is Crista Galli, a woman believed by some to be the child of God. Pooling her talents with those of others, Crista fights to overthrow The Director and his followers.
The Ascension Factor was Frank Herbert's last book - he died soon after completing his share of the collaboration. Concluding The Pandora Trilogy, it contains all the inventiveness, complexity and exuberance readers have come to expect.