The story is a great concept, taking place on earth billions of years in the future, a future where, after having conquered the galaxy, humans have abandoned everything except for one (very advanced) city on earth. That city is run and managed by the Central Computer, which, after so many of no longer being interested in the world around them, the population no longer remembers what the core mission of the Central Computer is - they simply follow what it tells them to do.
Enter Alvin, a young man who has reached the age of adulthood and is facing what he will do for the rest of his current life, a life that could last tens of thousands of years before his consciousness is loaded back into the Central Computer's database where it will wait to be born again. Yes, humans no longer reproduce offspring in the natural way, people are created and 'assigned' a set of 'parents' who are responsible for helping them through their first twenty years, along with a mentor who is also assigned.
Born nearly full-grown, the young humans don't necessarily learn like young people today do, but instead they regain memories from their previous lives. These remembered visions help guide them into becoming who the Central Computer needs them to be for this life-time. Except, Alvin has a secret. He is a unique - a person born for the very first time with no previous lives to remember. His future is completely up to him, and the rest of the book tells the adventure of how he finds his purpose.
That's about all I can share without really spoiling the plot for you. What I can say is, Clarke is not at his best for this writing. He also takes a huge stab at established religions, poking fun at any who believe in an entity outside themselves that is involved in the creating of their destiny (while all along having the Central Computer which does exactly that - but that was man-made, so I guess that's okay?) Anyway, I was not at all satisfied with this reading, which is why I am giving it only three stars. It had a ton of potential, written by a master of the sci-fi genre, but it really fell flat.