A Deepness in the Sky Hardcover – Feb 15 1999
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This hefty novel returns to the universe of Vernor Vinge's 1993 Hugo winner A Fire Upon the Deep--but 30,000 years earlier. The story has the same sense of epic vastness despite happening mostly in one isolated solar system. Here there's a world of intelligent spider creatures who traditionally hibernate through the "Deepest Darkness" of their strange variable sun's long "off" periods, when even the atmosphere freezes. Now, science offers them an alternative... Meanwhile, attracted by spider radio transmissions, two human starfleets come exploring--merchants hoping for customers and tyrants who want slaves. Their inevitable clash leaves both fleets crippled, with the power in the wrong hands, which leads to a long wait in space until the spiders develop exploitable technology. Over the years Vinge builds palpable tension through multiple storylines and characters. In the sky, hopes of rebellion against tyranny continue despite soothing lies, brutal repression, and a mental bondage that can convert people into literal tools. Down below, the engagingly sympathetic spiders have their own problems. In flashback, we see the grandiose ideals and ultimate betrayal of the merchant culture's founder, now among the human contingent and pretending to be a senile buffoon while plotting, plotting... Major revelations, ironies, and payoffs follow. A powerful story in the grandest SF tradition. --David Langford, Amazon.co.uk
From Library Journal
A war between two rival civilizations over trading rights to the planet Arachna results in the virtual enslavement of the Qeng Ho by the victorious Emergent culture. As the Spider-folk of Arachna evolve in their customary cyclical pattern, unaware of the threat that lies in their near future, a few Qeng Ho rebels work desperately to free themselves and save Arachna from conquest. This prequel to A Fire Upon the Deep (Tor, 1992) demonstrates Vinge's capacity for meticulously detailed culture-building and grand-scale sf drama. Recommended for most sf collections.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
Unfortunately, I think a good book needs to be one which I look forward to reading, one which occupies my thoughts when I'm not in it and makes me rush home from school to pick it up, and this is no such book. The size is unneccessary, Vernor Vinge could have cut out about 200 pages of dreary, too-mundane descriptions of the daily life of the aliens. I cared nothing about the spider creatures and their extremely monotonous lives, which Vinge details over dozens of pages.
Toward the end, as it became a question of "Will I finish this book at all?" I had to make a desperate move, and begin skipping big parts of chapters. I had no trouble keeping up with the plot at all, despite racing through the last half of the book, since so many pages are completely superfluous and totally uninteresting.
Like Vinge's other fiction, this book is host to a number of "big ideas" that take the stage along with the actions and inactions of the characters. They include:
An alien species--the Spiders--that seems far less alien than they really should. What seems like bad writing through much of the book is given a reasonable explanation in the end. These creatures are interesting and even--heaven help me--cute.
A variable star turns on and off at regular intervals. The possible explanations are intriguing as are its effects on the evolution of life on its planets.
A tailored "mindrot" virus produces various neurological effects, including an exaggerated ability to concentrate called "Focus." The virus is both a disease and an altered state that makes workers diligent, productive and savant-like.Read more ›
This is great science fiction. The plot is exciting, and Vinge invents and explores the ramifications of several interesting technologies plus the weird on-off star environment. He also explores social conflicts between the human societies and the spider societies. Both sets of societies appear to have intentional parallels with current societies here on earth.
I believe Vinge intends those parallels to be an important part of the book, so I'm going to write a little more about them. Many of Vinge's books feature societies based around a libertarian ideal of little or no government, and privatization of government's traditional functions. For example, in a story called "The Ungoverned," a section of the former United States has no government at all, and people hire private companies with names like "Michigan State Police" and "Al's protection Racket" for traditional government services.
One problem with a government-free society is the possibility that some people may completely trample the rights of others without fear of reprisal. In "Deepness," Vinge encapsulates that problem as the problem slavery.Read more ›
The Human. Terribly cruel despotic rule, involving slavery, rape, bigotry, and "state-of-the-art" diplomacy and duplicity. Millennia spanning civilizations, hemmed in by extremely well-chosen scientific, economic, ecological and societal barriers.
Love is crushed, lost, rampaged and explosively rediscovered. Dreams are buried and reawakened.
Deepness in the Sky is one of those very, very few novels that encompasses all of the above, in a beautifully interwoven story. A civilization of millennium spanning space traders races to an astronomical anomaly, a newly discovered planet in an on/off-star galaxy. They are met there by another group of space travelers whom they had not previously encountered. Both groups are hoping to harvest huge profits from being the first to interact with the new non-human civilization just discovered on the planet. We learn about all three civilizations in detail, via big picture views/histories, and through many, many personal characterizations. This book manages to get us involved with, and caring about at least 12 major characters.
Vinge's amazing story is beautifully, tragically, magically, heartrendingly emotional, and at the same time mind-bendingly thoughtful on many levels. I cannot overstate how great this book is. The way he evolves our understanding of the alien civilization, until we can still care (strongly!!Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Not very good. Predictable, saccharine, super super boring. I only finished this book out of stubbornness. Read morePublished 7 months ago by C. mcalister
Seriously unreadable. Got halfway though the book before realising I didn't care about any of the characters. Didn't even finish it.Published on May 28 2012 by Christian Eid
This is the best book I've read in a while. I'll admit, it's fairly dense and somewhat slow paced - if you like your sci-fi heavy on the 'splosions and sexiness, this is probably... Read morePublished on Sept. 1 2010 by C. Samuelsson
I found this book impossible to put down. The development of the characters, the evil podmasters, Pham Nuwen, the Spider society - it was all fascinating. Read morePublished on Nov. 5 2007 by Susan W
After reading A Fire Upon the Deep, I was eager to get my hands on this prequel. Vinge delivered again...in fact, this book is even slightly better than its predecessor. Read morePublished on Oct. 30 2003 by themarsman
Vernor Vinge successfully juggles about a couple dozen characters with very rich personalities with out losing track of the story. Read morePublished on Oct. 22 2003 by Colby A. Scott
Aging space trader Pham Newem has to save the newly-discovered Arachnid civilization from the brutal Emergents, who have learned how to incorporate the minds of human slaves into... Read morePublished on Sept. 19 2003 by Dave Deubler
This is an overlong book made worse by sloppy writing. The same distant, cold style is used for both technical descriptions and supposedly ardent human interactions. Read morePublished on Aug. 18 2003