“Suppose a vast number of civilizations are distributed throughout the universe, on the order of the number of detectable stars. Lots and lots of them. Those civilizations make up the body of a cosmic society. Cosmic sociology is the study of the nature of this super-society” (p 12).
Not only has Coetzee brought David’s character to life and allowed to live his own life the way the character desires, the reader is simultaneously not repulsed but compelled to keep reading, keep digging, keep hoping like David that punishment will not go on forever.