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A Deepness in the Sky [Hardcover]

Vernor Vinge
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (166 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb. 15 1999 Zones of Thought Sequel (Book 2)
After thousands of years searching, 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....Then, following terrible treachery, the Qeng Ho must fight for their freedom and for the lives of the unsuspecting innocents on the planet below, while the aliens themselves play a role unsuspected by the Qeng Ho and Emergents alike.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.
A Deepness in the Sky is a 1999 Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel and the winner of the 2000 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

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From Amazon

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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The Qeng Ho fleet was first to arrive at the OnOff star. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Neat ideas, but very slow moving book Aug. 14 2003
By E.K.
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I found this book by looking at the Hugo award list from recent years, yet I can't see why this book won anything. The concepts in it are fun to read about, specifically life on (and in) a pile of space debris, and the intrigue between two different groups of people, one using enslaved humans as living computers and the other an ancient trading group.
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great science fiction May 12 2004
By elwin
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is great science fiction! I usually like Vinge's books, and this one was fully up to par. It intertwines two converging stories. One is about a group of (human) freedom loving space traders who travel and sell in many star systems, who are thrown together with (human) totalitarian exploiters. The other is about an intelligent race of spiders whose "on-off" star blinks with a century-long period -- thus they must endure a multi-decade deep freeze during their lifetimes (the "Deepness" in the title is a place where spiders can hibernate through a freeze).
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A truly great book deserving 6 stars!! Dec 4 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The Alien. A beautiful, strange world thriving in a uniquely alien climate. A totally alien sentient race, described in an evolving, and fantastically evocative, thoughtful manner. Problems of first contact language and societal issues are crucial to the story, and handled amazingly well.
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!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Sci-fi Intrigue for the Hardy Reader Sept. 19 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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 their powerful computer networks. But how can he help the Spiders when he can't even help himself?
This book bears even less relationship to Vinge's Fire Upon the Deep than one might imagine, and really doesn't deserve to be called a prequel - they're two totally independent novels separated by thousands of years, that happen to share one major character, and even that character is really a pretty generic sci-fi hero. And since Pham Newem is the real star of this book, it's hard to see why so many pages are devoted to the hapless Ezr and his uncomfortable love triangle with Trixia and Qiwi, for example. Even less pertinent are the seemingly interminable chapters about the Spiders, and one Spider family (does it even make sense for Spiders to have families?) in particular.
Although this is in many ways an excellent book, and certainly worth the effort for ardent sci-fi readers, one could hardly blame you if you found yourself skimming through some sections that don't seem to move things forward. Younger readers in particular should steer clear, not so much because of a couple of inappropriate scenes (Vinge wants us to see what monsters the Emergents really are, and occasionally crosses the line) as because the plot's glacial slowness may be too much for their attention spans.
As with FUtD, there's a growing horror at work in this book as the helplessness of the Qeng Ho (read capitalist good guys) seems to reach a totality that smacks too much of melodrama.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars "Let the Bad Guys Win Every Once in a While"
Set twenty thousand years earlier than A Fire Upon The Deep, Vernor Vinge's second book in the Zones of Thought universe shares little and requires nothing of its companion volume. Read more
Published 20 months ago by John M. Ford
2.0 out of 5 stars Loved A Fire Upon the Deep, hated this follow up
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Speculative Ficion
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 more
Published on Sept. 1 2010 by C. Samuelsson
5.0 out of 5 stars Deserves all 5 stars!
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 more
Published on Nov. 5 2007 by Susan W
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Prequel
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 more
Published on Oct. 30 2003 by themarsman
5.0 out of 5 stars The Deepness of the book
Vernor Vinge successfully juggles about a couple dozen characters with very rich personalities with out losing track of the story. Read more
Published on Oct. 22 2003 by Colby A. Scott
2.0 out of 5 stars Unreadable
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 more
Published on Aug. 18 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars Sloppy writing
From the writing in this book it seems that English was not the author's first language. Things are often expressed in an unidiomatic way. Or maybe it's just sloppiness? Read more
Published on Aug. 14 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Another wonderful novel by Vinge
Once again Vernor Vinge, author of "A Fire upon the Deep", weaves a tight, thrilling tale of slavery, tyranny, and misdirection. Read more
Published on Aug. 5 2003 by barbre
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