Philip Montfort is a man of contradictions. He is an Anglo-Indian born in British India and torn between his Part-Caucasian heritage and his Indian identity. Born into a vanishing aristocratic family with fading fortunes, his life is a struggle to reconcile his circumstances with his desires and to render a true account of himself. He is irreligious but a seeker of truth and authenticity. After studying law at Cambridge, and being denied a place in both England and India, he seeks instead to make life anew in the Colonies - specifically in the bustling, ecstatic British outpost of Singapore. There, he is drawn into the orbit of young, privileged intellectuals like himself who seek truth just as he does, while gorging and stupefying themselves with layers of luxury. They call themselves the Asiatic Club and commission themselves to doing civic works in the lead up to the War. More secretive however are their preparations to form a stay-behind auxiliary in the event that Singapore is occupied.