One of the most original, intrigueing, and readable future history novels I've read. After about two hundred years, America is ruled by Mafia-like factions - the Syndic in the East, and the Mob in the West. The Government in exile consists of the US Navy based in Iceland.
The author, or at least his protagonist, seems to come from a libertarian viewpoint, making the Syndic's loose rules seem utopian. Gambling, prostitution, etc. are legal. Only such heinous acts as murder and rape are frowned on - and acted on - by the organization. The story follows the adventures of a young Syndic bagman who volunteers to infiltrate the government in exile, to determine if they are responsible for recent assassinations. This entails mind control to prevent his exposure by lie detectors, drugs, etc. What he learns about the government is shocking - they've become more a terrorist / pirate operation than anything resembling the old Navy. Taken to a base in Ireland, he learns most of Europe has reverted to savagery, and escaping the government he falls into the hands of a pagan witch.
More twists and turns propel the story with insightful social speculation along the way, such as when the protagonist ruminates: "Back in Syndic Territory, fat, sloppy, happy Syndic Territory, did they know how good they had it? He wished he could tell them to cling to their good life. But Uncle Frank said it didn't do any good to cling; it was a matter of tension and relaxation. When you stiffen up a way of life and try to fossilize it so it'll stay that way forever, then you find you've lost it."
My favorite author is Robert A. Heinlein, and this novel vividly reminds me of some of Heinleins earlier adult novels, especially in the level of intrigue and the style that blends in the social comment, such as Heinlein's "Sixth Column" (a.k.a. "The Day After Tomorrow"), "Gulf," "If This Goes On . . ." ("Revolt In 2100"), and "Double Star." Kornbluth even touches on topics like polyandry and cannibalism, and specifically borrows (?) from Heinlein's future history story "The Roads Must Roll," using multi-lane, speed-graduated coveyor-belt people movers for tranportion in his future cities.
Having read all of Heinlein's books - most twice - I've sought similar books to read for years, and this is one of the few that satisfied me. Unfortunately I understand that Kornbluth died relatively young, at 35. Right now I'm looking for more books by Cyril M. Kornbluth.