This book takes place in an unnamed European nation, where a government arises following the rise of a philosophy known as "Ekwilism," which discourages the idea of anyone being any different from anyone else, and promotes the state as the prominent good in society. This government is led by a man named Paduk and his "Party of the Average Man." As it happens, the world-renowned philosopher Adam Krug was in his youth a classmate of Paduk, at which period he had bullied him and referred to him disparagingly as "the Toad." Paduk arrests many of the people opposing his Ekiwilist philosophy, including many of Krug's friends, and attempts to get the influential Professor Krug to promote the state philosophy to help stomp out dissent and increase his personal prestige.
He makes an offer to Krug, but Krug refuses outright, and eventually is arrested himself. At this point he agrees to promote Ekwilism so long as his child, David, remains unharmed. This is agreed to happily, but as it soon turns out, the state has unwittingly sent David to the Institute for Abnormal Children instead of the best State Rest House as planned. When Krug and a state official go to gather him from there, they find that there has been an "accident" and the boy is dead. The state immediately conveys the idea that nothing has changed in their plans, and makes an offer to allow Krug to personally kill those responsible. He swears at the officials and is locked in a large prison cell. Another offer is made to Krug to free 24 opponents of Ekwilism, including many of his friends, in exchange for doing so. But by this time he has largely gone mad, and at the first opportunity he rushes Paduk and is killed.