Nutshell: Boy named Sue wins lottery twice, whines about it to AI psychiatrist.
Two narrative strands drive inexorably toward the crisis point, an encounter with a quantum singularity. First strand is prospective account of things said & done by narrator from his birth to the black hole, whereas second strand is sessions with robot therapist, retrospective, peeling back narrator's defects in order to arrive again at the black hole. Third strand escapes the pull of the singularity through random presentation of excerpts of setting documents, very effective, such as classified ads, mission reports, scientific lectures.
Setting is standard cyberpunk-style pessimism regarding the future, in which capitalism reverts to its 19th century incarnation, such as narrator's work at 16 as a miner for food in oil fields (i know, right?): "You work six hours on and ten hours off" (11). This is no Horatio Alger story, though, as it is plain that hard work does not pay off for anyone; narrator escapes the mines only because he won $250,000 in the lottery at age 26, "enough for a one-way ticket to Gateway" (14), the locus of an ancient alien transit point, whereat he can enroll as an independent contractor to prospect extraterrestrial sites.
Contract between narrator and Gateway Enterprises, Inc. (an MNC "whose general partners are the governments of the United States of America, the Soviet Union, the United States of Brazil, the Venusian Confederation, and New People's Asia, and whose limited partners are all those persons, like yourself, who have signed the attached Memorandum of Agreement" (48)) is presented as an exhibit: narrator agrees to "assign all rights" to discoveries he makes to the company, in consideration of royalties from the discoveries, which the company can exploit in its sole discretion; he also releases company from any claims arising out of his activities under the agreement, and agrees to a choice of law provision that any dispute on the agreement between himself and company will be decided under "laws and precedents of Gateway itself" (29). This is a nasty agreement; our law does not usually enforce a pre-injury release--if it did, there'd be no suits at law for tort damages, as all activities would begin with the signing of a release. The choice of law provision is nasty, and is what likely allows the pre-injury release to be enforceable. Similarly, the company has sole discretion to exploit any discovery, but the discovering contractor does not retain any right to exploit discoveries that company declines.
The agreement is nevertheless also extremely inartful, which bad drafting accrues to the benefit of persons like narrator--Gateway's lawyers should be fired: there is no definitions section, no merger clause, no forum selection or arbitration provision, no severability clause, no fee-shifting, no stipulated damages, no non-disclosure clause, no non-competition clause, no waiver of consequential damages, and so on. This MoA is accordingly malpractice.
Despite all that, company has been successful, with gross revenues in the prior year over $3,700,000,000,000.00 (55).
Narrator is generally annoying, self-obsessed, thinks it important to report his sex life with regularity, and reveals his abject perdition when in a proprietary rage he brutally beats the woman with whom he was associating regularly, even as he was himself "smelling of sex with some cheap floozy" (203).
Ending is perfect--narrator randomly escapes black hole, and is paid sufficiently well for it in order to become a big shot cappy on Earth--but his good luck left colleagues within the event horizon, wherein "time has stopped for them" (273)--very much the same type of ending as in Dunsany's "Probable Adventures of Three Literary Men," where the protagonist "leaped over the edge of the World and is falling from us still through the unreverberate blackness of the abyss."
Worthy of Hugo & Nebula, I'd say, at the very least for its recapitulation of New Wave ideas.