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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Vernor Vinge is best known for thematically massive, visionary science fiction epics like A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky (both of which won the Hugo Award); but fans of the renowned literary futurist will be happy to know that Tor Books is busy re-releasing some of Vinge's earlier, more intimate works.
The Witling (1976), Vinge's second published novel, chronicles the adventures of two human explorers marooned on a planet inhabited by an sentient but unfriendly race. Slowly dying from the heavy metal concentration in the local food and water (and hopelessly stranded after their spacecraft crashed and burned), surly pilot Yoninne Leg-Wot and aging archeologist Ajao Bjault have only one chance to survive -- to somehow retrieve their weapons and communication devices from the native populace and transmit an emergency message requesting help. The Azhiri, however, although still a primitive Iron Age civilization, have extraordinarily powerful teleportation abilities…
If shelf-bending masterworks like the aforementioned A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky are all-you-can-eat meals, then this unearthed Vinge classic is a delectable bite-sized dessert. With only a handful of integral characters and relatively uncomplicated story lines, the pacing of The Witling is fast and its narrative straightforward. But, as par for the course with all Vinge works, deeply thought-provoking themes (contrasting cultures, tolerance, prejudice, etc.) make this fast-paced adventure anything but simple reading fare. (Note: Fans still hungry for more VV should check out Tatja Grimm's World, The Peace War, and Marooned in Realtime, all early Vinge works recently reissued by Tor.) Paul Goat Allen