A Deepness in the Sky

A Deepness in the Sky

by Vernor Vinge

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Overview

A Hugo award-winning Novel!

“Vinge is one of the best visionary writers of SF today.” David Brin

Thirty-Thousand years before A Fire Upon the Deep, humans stand on the verge of first contact with an alien race. Two human groups: the Qeng Ho, a culture of free traders, and the Emergents, a ruthless society based on the technological enslavement of minds. The group that opens trade with the aliens will reap unimaginable riches. But first, both groups must wait at the aliens' very doorstep for their strange star to relight and for their planet to reawaken, as it does every two hundred and fifty years. More than just a great science fiction adventure, A Deepness in the Sky is a universal drama of courage, self-discovery, and the redemptive power of love.

Tor books by Vernor Vinge

Realtime/Bobble Series
The Peace War
Marooned in Realtime

Other Novels
The Witling
Tatja Grimm's World
Rainbows End

Collections
Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge
True Names

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429915090
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 04/01/2007
Series: Zones of Thought , #2
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 608
Sales rank: 148,209
File size: 828 KB

About the Author

Born in Waukesha, Wisconsin and raised in Central Michigan, science fiction writer Vernor Vinge is the son of geographers. Fascinated by science and particularly computers from an early age, he has a Ph.D. in computer science, and taught mathematics and computer science at San Diego State University for thirty years.

He has won Hugo Awards for his novels A Fire Upon the Deep (1992) and A Deepness in the Sky (1999), and for the novella "Fast Times at Fairmont High" (2001). Known for his rigorous hard-science approach to his SF, he became an iconic figure among cybernetic scientists with the publication in 1981 of his novella "True Names," which is considered a seminal, visionary work of Internet fiction.

He has also gained a great deal of attention both here and abroad for his theory of the coming machine intelligence Singularity. Sought widely as a speaker to both business and scientific groups, he lives in San Diego, California.


Vernor Vinge has won five Hugo Awards, including one for each of his last three novels, A Fire Upon the Deep (1992), A Deepness in the Sky (1999), and Rainbow’s End (2006). Known for his rigorous hard-science approach to his science fiction, he became an iconic figure among cybernetic scientists with the publication in 1981 of his novella "True Names," which is considered a seminal, visionary work of Internet fiction. His many books also include Marooned in Realtime and The Peace War. Born in Waukesha, Wisconsin and raised in Central Michigan, Vinge is the son of geographers. Fascinated by science and particularly computers from an early age, he has a Ph.D. in computer science, and taught mathematics and computer science at San Diego State University for thirty years. He has gained a great deal of attention both here and abroad for his theory of the coming machine intelligence Singularity. Sought widely as a speaker to both business and scientific groups, he lives in San Diego, California.

Read an Excerpt

A Deepness in the Sky


By Vernor Vinge, James R. Frenkel

Tom Doherty Associates, LLC

Copyright © 1999 Vernor Vinge
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-1509-0


CHAPTER 1

The Qeng Ho fleet was first to arrive at the OnOff star. That might not matter. For the last fifty years of their voyage, they had watched the torch-plumes of the Emergent fleet as it decelerated toward the same destination.

They were strangers, meeting far from either side's home territory. That was nothing new to the traders of the Qeng Ho—though normally the meetings were not so unwelcome, and there was the possibility of trade. Here, well, there was treasure but it did not belong to either side. It lay frozen, waiting to be looted or exploited or developed, depending on one's nature. So far from friends, so far from a social context ... so far from witnesses. This was a situation where treachery might be rewarded, and both sides knew it. Qeng Ho and Emergents, the two expeditions, had danced around each other for days, probing for intent and firepower. Agreements were drawn and redrawn, plans were made for joint landings. Yet the Traders had learned precious little of true Emergent intent. And so the Emergents' invitation to dinner was greeted with relief by some and with a silent grinding of teeth by others.

Trixia Bonsol leaned her shoulder against his, cocked her head so that only he could hear: "So, Ezr. The food tastes okay. Maybe they're not trying to poison us."

"It's bland enough," he murmured back, and tried not to be distracted by her touch. Trixia Bonsol was planet-born, one of the specialist crew. Like most of the Trilanders, she had a streak of overtrustfulness in her makeup; she liked to tease Ezr about his "Trader paranoia."

Ezr's gaze flicked across the tables. Fleet Captain Park had brought one hundred to the banquet, but very few armsmen. The Qeng Ho were seated among nearly as many Emergents. He and Trixia were far from the captain's table. Ezr Vinh, apprentice Trader, and Trixia Bonsol, linguistics postdoc. He assumed the Emergents down here were equally low-ranking. The best Qeng Ho estimate was that the Emergents were strict authoritarians, but Ezr saw no overt marks of rank. Some of the strangers were talkative, and their Nese was easily understandable, scarcely different from the broadcast standard. The pale, heavyset fellow on his left had maintained nonstop chitchat throughout the meal. Ritser Brughel seemed to be a Programmer-at-Arms, though he hadn't recognized the term when Ezr used it. He was full of the schemes they could use in coming years.

"Tas been done often enough afore, dontcha know? Get 'em when they don't know technology—or haven't yet rebuilt it," said Brughel, concentrating most of his efforts away from Ezr, on old Pham Trinli. Brughel seemed to think that apparent age conferred some special authority, not realizing that any older guy down among the juniors must truly be a loser. Ezr didn't mind the being ignored; it gave him an opportunity to observe without distraction. Pham Trinli seemed to enjoy the attention. As one Programmer-at-Arms to another, Trinli tried to top everything the pale, blond fellow said, in the process yielding confidences that made Ezr squirm.

One thing about these Emergents, they were technically competent. They had ramships that traveled fast between the stars; that put them at the top in technical savvy. And this didn't seem to be decadent knowledge. Their signal and computer abilities were as good as the Qeng Ho's—and that, Vinh knew, made Captain Park's security people more nervous than mere Emergent secrecy. The Qeng Ho had culled the golden ages of a hundred civilizations. In other circumstances, the Emergents' competence would have been cause for honest mercantile glee.

Competent, and hardworking too. Ezr looked beyond the tables. Not to ogle, but this place was impressive. The "living quarters" on ramscoop ships were generally laughable. Such ships must have substantial shielding and moderate strength of construction. Even at fractional lightspeed, an interstellar voyage took years, and crew and passengers spent most of that time as corpsicles. Yet the Emergents had thawed many of their people before living space was in place. They had built this habitat and spun it up in less than eight days—even while final orbit corrections were being done. The structure was more than two hundred meters across, a partial ring, and it was all made from materials that had been lugged across twenty light-years.

Inside, there was the beginning of opulence. The overall effect was classicist in some low degree, like early Solar habitats before life-support systems were well understood. The Emergents were masters of fabric and ceramics, though Ezr guessed that bio-arts were nonexistent. The drapes and furniture contrived to disguise the curvature in the floor. The ventilator breeze was soundless and just strong enough to give the impression of limitless airy space. There were no windows, not even spin-corrected views. Where the walls were visible, they were covered with intricate manual artwork (oil paintings?). Their bright colors gleamed even in the half-light. He knew Trixia wanted a closer look at those. Even more than language, she claimed that native art showed the inner heart of a culture.

Vinh looked back at Trixia, gave her a smile. She would see through it, but maybe it fooled the Emergents. Ezr would have given anything to possess the apparent cordiality of Captain Park, up there at the head table, carrying on such an affable conversation with the Emergents' Tomas Nau. You'd think the two were old school buddies. Vinh settled back, listening not for sense but for attitude.

Not all the Emergents were smiling, talkative types. The redhead at the front table, just a few places down from Tomas Nau: She'd been introduced, but Vinh couldn't remember the name. Except for the glint of a silver necklace, the woman was plainly—severely—dressed. She was slender, of indeterminate age. Her red hair might have been a style for the evening, but her unpigmented skin would have been harder to fake. She was exotically beautiful, except for the awkwardness in her bearing, the hard set of her mouth. Her gaze ranged up and down the tables, yet she might as well have been alone. Vinh noticed that their hosts hadn't placed any guest beside her. Trixia often teased Vinh that he was a great womanizer if only in his head. Well, this weird-looking lady would have figured more in Ezr Vinh's nightmares than in any happy fantasy.

Over at the front table, Tomas Nau had come to his feet. The servers stepped back from the tables. A hush fell upon the seated Emergents and all but the most self- absorbed Traders.

"Time for some toasts to friendship between the stars," Ezr muttered. Bonsol elbowed him, her attention pointedly directed at the front table. He felt her stifle a laugh when the Emergent leader actually began with:

"Friends, we are all a long way from home." He swept his arm in a gesture that seemed to take in the spaces beyond the walls of the banquet room. "We've both made potentially serious mistakes. We knew this star system is bizarre." Imagine a star so drastically variable that it nearly turns itself off for 215 years out of every 250. "Over the millennia, astrophysicists of more than one civilization tried to convince their rulers to send an expedition here ways." He stopped, smiled. "Of course, till our era, tas expensively far beyond the Human Realm. Yet now it is the simultaneous object of two human expeditions." There were smiles all around, and the thought What wretched luck. "Of course, there is a reason that made the coincidence likely. Years aback there was no driving need for such an expedition. Now we all have a reason: The race you call the Spiders. Only the third nonhuman intelligence ever found." And in a planetary system as bleak as this, such life was unlikely to have arisen naturally. The Spiders themselves must be the descendants of starfaring nonhumans—something Humankind had never encountered. It could be the greatest treasure the Qeng Ho had ever found, all the more so because the present Spider civilization had only recently rediscovered radio. They should be as safe and tractable as any fallen human civilization.

Nau gave a self-deprecating chuckle and glanced at Captain Park. "Till recently, I had not realized how perfectly our strengths and weaknesses, our mistakes and insights, complemented each other. You came from much farther away, but in very fast ships already built. We came from nearer, but took the time to bring much more. We both figured most things correctly." Telescope arrays had watched the OnOff star for as long as Humankind had been in space. It had been known for centuries that an Earth-sized planet with life-signature chemistry orbited the star. If OnOff had been a normal star, the planet might have been quite pleasant, not the frozen snowball it was most of the time. There were no other planetary bodies in the OnOff system, and ancient astronomers had confirmed the moonlessness of the single world in the system. No other terrestrial planets, no gas giants, no asteroids ... and no cometary cloud. The space around the OnOff star was swept clean. Such would not be surprising near a catastrophic variable, and certainly the OnOff star might have been explosive in the past—but then how did the one world survive? It was one of the mysteries about the place.

All that was known, and planned for. Captain Park's fleet had spent its brief time here in a frantic survey of the system, and in dredging a few kilotonnes of volatiles from the frozen world. In fact, they had found four rocks in the system—asteroids, you might call them, if you were in a generous mood. They were strange things, the largest about two kilometers long. They were solid diamond. The Trilander scientists nearly had fistfights trying to explain that.

But you can't eat diamonds, not raw anyway. Without the usual mix of native volatiles and ores, fleet life would be very uncomfortable indeed. The damn Emergents were both late and lucky. Apparently, they had fewer science and academic specialists, slower starships ... but lots and lots of hardware.

The Emergent boss gave a benign smile and continued: "There really is only one place in all the OnOff system where volatiles exist in any quantity—and that is on the Spider world itself." He looked back and forth across his audience, his gaze lingering on the visitors. "I know it's something that some of you had hoped to postpone till after the Spiders were active again.... But there are limits to the value of lurking, and my fleet includes heavy lifters. Director Reynolt"—aha, that was the redhead's name!—"agrees with your scientists that the locals never did progress beyond their primitive radios. All the 'Spiders' are frozen deep underground and will remain so till the OnOff star relights." In about a year. The cause of OnOff's cycle was a mystery, but the transition from dark to bright repeated with a period that had drifted little in eight thousand years.

Next to him at the front table, S. J. Park was smiling, too, probably with as much sincerity as Tomas Nau. Fleet Captain Park had not been popular with the Triland Forestry Department; that was partly because he cut their pre-Flight time to the bone, even when there had been no evidence of a second fleet. Park had all but fried his ramjets in a delayed deceleration, coming in just ahead of the Emergents. He had a valid claim to first arrival, and precious little else: the diamond rocks, a small cache of volatiles. Until their first landings, they hadn't even known what the aliens really looked like. Those landings, poking around monuments, stealing a little from garbage dumps had revealed a lot—which now must be bargained away.

"It's time to begin working together," Nau continued. "I don't know how much you all have heard about our discussions of the last two days. Surely there have been rumors. You'll have details very soon, but Captain Park, your Trading Committee, and I thought that now is a good occasion to show our united purpose. We are planning a joint landing of considerable size. The main goal will be to raise at least a million tonnes of water and similar quantities of metallic ores. We have heavy lifters that can accomplish this with relative ease. As secondary goals, we'll leave some unobtrusive sensors and undertake a small amount of cultural sampling. These results and resources will be split equally between our two expeditions. In space, our two groups will use the local rocks to create a cover for our habitats, hopefully within a few light-seconds of the Spiders." Nau glanced again at Captain Park. So some things were still under discussion.

Nau raised his glass. "So a toast. To an end of mistakes, and to our common undertaking. May there be a greater focus in the future."


"Hey, my dear, I'm supposed to be the paranoid one, remember? I thought you'd be beating me up for my nasty Trader suspicions."

Trixia smiled a little weakly but didn't answer right away. She'd been unusually quiet all the way back from the Emergent banquet. They were back in her quarters in the Traders' temp. Here she was normally her most outspoken and delightful self. "Their habitat was certainly nice," she finally said.

"Compared to our temp it is." Ezr patted the plastic wall. "For something made from parts they shipped in, it was a great job." The Qeng Ho temp was scarcely more than a giant, partitioned balloon. The gym and meeting rooms were good-sized, but the place was not exactly elegant. The Traders saved elegance for larger structures they could make with local materials. Trixia had just two connected rooms, a bit over one hundred cubic meters total. The walls were plain, but Trixia had worked hard on the consensus imagery: her parents and sisters, a panorama from some great Triland forest. Much of her desk area was filled with historical flats from Old Earth before the Space Age. There were pictures from the first London and the first Berlin, pictures of horses and aeroplanes and commissars. In fact, those cultures were bland compared with the extremes played out in the histories of later worlds. But in the Dawn Age, everything was being discovered for the first time. There had never been a time of higher dreams or greater naivete. That time was Ezr's specialty, to the horror of his parents and the puzzlement of most of his friends. And yet Trixia understood. The Dawn Age was only a hobby for her, maybe, but she loved to talk about the old, old first times. He knew he would never find another like her.

"Look, Trixia, what's got you down? Surely there's nothing suspicious about the Emergents having nice quarters. Most of the evening you were your usual softheaded self"—she didn't rise to the insult—"but then something happened. What did you notice?" He pushed off the ceiling to float closer to where she was seated against a wall divan.

"It ... it was several little things, and—" She reached out to catch his hand. "You know I have an ear for languages." Another quick smile. "Their dialect of Nese is so close to your broadcast standard that it's clear they've bootstrapped off the Qeng Ho Net."

"Sure. That all fits with their claims. They're a young culture, crawling back from a bad fall." Will I end up having to defend them? The Emergent offer had been reasonable, almost generous. It was the sort of thing that made any good Trader a little cautious. But Trixia had seen something else to worry about.

"Yes, but having a common language makes a lot of things difficult to disguise. I heard a dozen authoritarian turns of speech—and they didn't seem to be fossil usages. The Emergents are accustomed to owning people, Ezr."

"You mean slaves? This is a high-tech civilization, Trixia. Technical people don't make good slaves. Without their wholehearted cooperation, things fall apart."

She squeezed his hand abruptly, not angry, not playful, but intense in a way he'd never seen with her before. "Yes, yes. But we don't know all their kinks. We do know they play rough. I had a whole evening of listening to that reddish blond fellow sitting beside you, and the pair that were on my right. The word 'trade' does not come easily to them. Exploitation is the only relationship they can imagine with the Spiders."

"Hmm." Trixia was like this. Things that slipped past him could make such a difference to her. Sometimes they seemed trivial even after she explained them. But sometimes her explanation was like a bright light revealing things he had never guessed. "... I don't know, Trixia. You know we Qeng Ho can sound pretty, um, arrogant when the customers are out of earshot."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge, James R. Frenkel. Copyright © 1999 Vernor Vinge. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Deepness in the Sky 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 48 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Science fiction doesn't get much better than this; Deepness is among the best SF of all time. This book rocks. My two complaints would be (a) the ending seemed pretty contrived... didn't seem to work as smoothly as it should have. Also, (b) The aliens are really only seen from the viewpoint of some lobotomized language specialists doing a radio show, and come across really campy. I wish Vinge had explored more about the difference between media presentation and what they actually were... you never really know what they were like.
ragwaine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not as cool as -AFUtD- but still great. Could have dropped 100 pages but I can't think of a part that was really boring. Couple of excellent big ideas: Focus, Qeng Ho culture, on/off star etc...
Farree on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nearly as good as A Fire Upon the Deep, this one deals with interesting aliens and even more interesting disease.
phaga on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. I haven't read a lot of modern sci-fi but i'm starting to get more into it, especially after reading this. Very interesting and exciting new ideas. Very cool.
clong on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found A Deepness in the Sky to be slow going at first, and I had a hard time finding much sympathy for any of the human characters. But, I stuck with it and by the end had come around to thinking it is one of the great recent science fiction novels. The Emergents are truly creepy and despicable bad guys; Vinge does an effective job of gradually revealing more and more reasons to hate them. I felt ambivalent about the other human faction in the book, the Qeng Ho, who had both good points and bad points; it was only as I understood the depravity of the Emergents that I started really rooting for other side. The alien "Spiders" are the best thing about the book. For me, Sherkaner Underhill and his family were the true protagonists of the story, and very easy to root for. He is a brilliant alien scientist who has yet to discover much of what the secretly-orbiting-and-spying-down-on-them humans already know. His entire family plays a critical role in the political and military maneuverings on-planet and in the ultimate system-wide resolution when the humans finally act. The pace eventually picks up and builds to an exciting climax and satisfying conclusion with plenty of surprises. It's only very loosely associated with A Fire Upon the Deep; I wouldn't really call it part of a series.
bradsucks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Couldn't finish this one. I was a hundred pages from the end and just couldn't do it anymore. Just like Fire Upon the Deep (which I loved), it started out incomprehensible and then slowly came to make sense to me. But I didn't find the story or setting compelling and it felt like nothing was going on most of the time.
Karlstar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an epic science fiction novel, both in length and quality. Almost as good as A Fire Upon the Deep, this is really an excellent exploration of an alien culture, mixed in with the familiar universe of the other novel. This is long, but well worth reading.
michaeleconomy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is reallllllllly long. I think I really would have loved it if it was about half as long.The point of view of the spiders is kinda lame at times. While the luddite spiders were kind of an interesting dynamic, I didn't really love reading about them quite that much. I also go over the spider babies really quickly. The author does dive a bit into speculative software design of the future, which you might expect from a Computer Science professor. I thought it was pretty cool, thankfully not at all like [author:Stephenson]'s frequent outbursts, but i expect some people who don't design software for a living might not 'get it' as much.I probably should have read fire in the deep first, I think thats his first book and people have told me that one is better.
melissaconway on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have a poor memory. Recently, I was asked the simple question, ¿What¿s your favorite book?¿ and I said what I¿d been saying for years, ¿Vernor Vinge wrote it. I can¿t remember the name¿A Darkness in the Deep or A Deepness in the Dark¿something like that. It¿s awesome; the ending had me jumping around, I was so excited at how clever it was.¿ When I realized I couldn¿t even remember what had me so excited, I decided to reread it. I¿m glad I did.Plot and title were not the only things I¿d forgotten about the Hugo award-winning `A Deepness in the Sky.¿ Maybe it was because I was young when I first took this tome on, with time on my hands to spend entire afternoons absorbed in a story, but dang! Deepness is LONG. It took me forever to read it this time, squeezing in a chapter between meetings and appointments here, a few pages between chores and obligations there. This is not to imply that reading Deepness again was in any way a chore or obligation¿on the contrary, the book is every bit as good as what I recalled of it.Refreshing my memory only served to reinforce this novel¿s place at the top of my favorites list. There¿s no way this review can do it justice, so before I try to explain exactly what¿s so great about it, please just take my word for it. Even if you¿re not a science fiction fan, it¿s simply the best.First of all, Vinge¿s intellectual brilliance (he¿s a retired computer scientist and Professor of Mathematics) shines through in his work. Not just in his exceptional concepts, but in his ability to filter those concepts through effective word usage, sentence structure, plot and characterization. In other words, he¿s a scientist who also happens to be a great writer. He¿s got a unique vision of what civilization might be like thousands of years in the future, and the technical skills to put that vision on paper in a highly effective manner.(Plot summary/Spoiler Alert!)The Qeng Ho (pronounced Cheng Ho) are the future. Star faring humans, a huge family of traders with ships spread out over known space. In all the thousands of years of exploration, there¿s only been one other intelligent race found, until now. Whoever makes first contact will secure great fame and fortune. One Qeng Ho fleet is speeding through space, but hot on their heels are the Emergents, a civilization that has recently `emerged¿ from a heinous civil war.In the On/Off solar system, the planet Arachna¿s sun phases between light and dark. During its dark phase, the planet¿s inhabitants burrow deep underground, where they go into a natural frozen hibernation as the atmosphere of the planet dissipates. The dominant species is a spider-like race with technology similar to that of mid-twentieth century earth.The Qeng Ho and Emergents arrive at the solar system at nearly the same time. They form an uneasy alliance that is soon destroyed when the Emergents attack. Tomas Nau, the Emergent `Podmaster,¿ is surprised at the Qeng Ho¿s resilience. Even as the Emergents¿ horrible biological weapon, a `mindrot¿ virus, is unleashed, the Qeng Ho manage to fight back. The result is that both fleets are nearly decimated. The remaining Qeng Ho are enslaved, and those whose immune systems were unable to fight off the mindrot virus are subject to `focus,¿ a deliberate manipulation by Emergent technicians of the virus in their brains that causes them to focus only on one area of specialization. These unfortunate `zipheads¿ can now hardly even care for themselves; they are only concerned with whatever they¿ve been focused on.Nau must play a dangerous game of keeping the Qeng Ho sublimated through pervasive ziphead-enhanced surveillance as they wait for Arachna¿s star to relight. The one attempt at rebellion is quashed quickly and brutally, further subjugating the remaining unfocused Qeng Ho population.All this sounds very science-fiction-y, doesn¿t it? And I promised you¿d like it even if you don¿t like sci-fi.Well, there¿s more to the story to than the background (and there¿s
Ed_Gosney on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this book, but not quite as much as A Fire Upon the Deep. Never-the-less, it was very entertaining and fun to read. The alien spiders were fascinating, as was the storyline with Pham. Highly recommended.
rakerman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed the creative ideas in this book.
bclark on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This review may contain what some consider spoilers. A Deepness in the Sky is, at its core, a predictable book with very few fresh ideas. I am quite surprised by the amount of favorable reviews, and I would imagine that this book might be much more favorable by those that have not read a lot of science-fiction. It is my opinion that Vinge recreated 600 pages of Human history with the introduction of advanced technology. The Qeng Ho are very reminiscent of Europe's early colonial traders (in ideals and their wish to expand their empire). My opinion is that the author did not produce a world of beings that would undoubtedly be very different than the world we see in, for example, Star Trek and Star Wars. The descendants of Earth simply aren't alien enough for the time period of the setting.During the author's introduction of the Qeng Ho and the Emergents (Humans), their history and the technology was somewhat interesting as it unfolded, but the author introduced very few fresh ideas about the possible Human condition in the far future and their technological advancements. For example, the method of star travel is what one might expect-- near light travel with very large ships; the ships' inhabitants are "frozen" on shifts due to the vastness between stars; Humans have returned to a form of slavery, albeit through technological, more direct means by altering the brain of their subjects; and the building of artificial environments in space was written in. Each of these, and others, once arrived, brought the question to mind, "How will Vinge handle this as other authors have in other science-fiction books?" The author should have asked this of himself, and steered away from those frequently used expectations.Vinge focused heavily on each character, but his descriptions were somewhat rambling. It is as if he spent most of the time on the relationships between characters, but left the meat of the excitement just outside of the frame. Character building is important, but I felt Vinge used too many words to spell out what the reader should already know about these characters by what had been written before. Less is definitely more when it comes to this story; nothing at all was left to the imagination. Key happenings are foretold, almost in passing, and the foretold events come and go without much narrative. For instance, only a couple of pages actually describe the invasion of the alien world. 400 pages build and build and build to first contact, and when we arrive to that point in the book, it goes off with a fizzle of excitement and still high expectations of revelations of something unexpected or new. Vinge didn't provide that sort of experience. In the end, the aliens were imagined as something alien but familiar: insects with technology and thought far too much like our own to be alien. The idea that the products of such an alien world could be anything remotely like us is, frankly, absurd. The result of this book is surprising considering that Vinge has been vocal about a possible technological singularity. This book could have been so, so much more.
name99 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Every bit as good as A Fire upon the Deep with, once again, nicely alien aliens and a page-turner of a plot. Not especially deep, but high entertainment.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author creates a vivid world populated by humans and an intelligent alien race. There are too many characters to keep straight. Some are finely developed, but not important to the story. This brings me to the book's deepest failing - hundreds of pages of information that do nothing to move the plot forward. Had the editor removed the unnecessary exposition, it would have been an exciting tale. I'm a pretty voracious reader, but this book took me 6 weeks to complete. It was the long, unending detail of the middle 300 pages that slowed me down. I wanted to like it. I wanted to complete it. However, I'd pick it up, struggle through a few boring pages and leave it for the next day. Day after day. The last 200 pages were exciting and I flew through them. Again, there IS a good story in there, but you have to be VERY patient.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A believable interspecies tale with equally believable characters
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is a highly creative work with fascinating insights into how life might form on other worlds. I wanted to keep reading, but I couldn't get past the rape camp, torture and medical experiments. I am sometimes sensitive about such things. If you aren't this would be a interesting read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just finised my third reading and it remains on of my favorite books. The characterization and cleverness of plotting continue to fascinate my imagination.
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Just enough detail about the "hard science" to not overly bore most readers. Rich, complex characters with back stories that you actually care about. All packed in a dramatic yarn that makes you not want to put it down.
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I read this book years ago, when i was in grade school. It changed everything i knew about scifi. I still go back and re-read it about once a year, and it never disapoints. There are some sections that feel like they're a little slow, but dont skip them. They add to the story and the payout is totally worth it! Not only does Vinge create an incredible world and tell a great story, but he makes all of the magic behind the science feel real and possible (because it is). He explains complex theoretical ideas in cosmology and physics in a way that's interesting, easy for anyone to understand, and never once breaks the narative, in fact it just makes the story that much more interesting.
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