The story revolves around the misadventures of Cole, a failed smuggler and second rate crook. Not only does he owe money to a particularly nasty bounty hunter named Kenneth, his girl friend has just dumped him for his sidekick, and his space ship has just been turned to dust for his failure to pay his docking fees. In order to get away from it all, specifically Kenneth who has offered to lay his eggs in Cole's brain in lieu of payment, he steals a fellow, far more successful, crook's ship and in the process inherits its current mission: transporting a colony of freeze dried orphans to Yernameer, the last unbranded planet in known space.
Everything, from the bullet about to kill you to the crook who fired it at you, is sponsored by somebody. Some items — like the guns that shoot the bullets — even come with little messages telling you how proud they are to be sponsoring this event and how wonderful a job their product is going to do in killing you. Hence, the attraction of the last unbranded planet to those who wish a return to simpler times, or who are on the run from the law or other types. However, Cole and his clients are in for a rude surprise when they arrive on Yernameer, as its not just happy settlers who have come to this final outpost on the edge of the frontier. It turns out the universe's nastiest gang of inter-species outlaws have crash landed here and are about to start making life miserable for those living in the one town on the planet.
When Cole does a Dorothy and lands his spaceship on a band of the outlaws delivering an ultimatum to the townsfolk, it's decided he's the one to protect the settlement from the bad guys and he's made sheriff. Which, in spite of his best intentions otherwise, he somehow manages to do. Even Kenneth showing up looking to do some nesting doesn't change matters, and Cole stumbles through to the end a winner and a loser all at once. While Cole's character is likable enough, in a he's-really-pathetic sort of way, everything about him and his adventures has a strong air of deja-vu written all over it. Even though some of the scenarios might be original, there's the constant feeling of, I've-read-this-before permeating the whole book.