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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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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unreadable Aug. 18 2003
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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. It's like reading one of those pseudo-English user manuals that come with overseas audio equipment. The reader is left clueless as to which characters/ideas are important and which aren't. Everything is painted with the same brush. Combine that with less substance than can sustain a long novel and tedium sets in very soon. I admit I gave up on the book after 300 pages.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "Let the Bad Guys Win Every Once in a While" Feb. 20 2013
By John M. Ford TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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. It's action alternates between the inhabitants of an alien world and human observers concealed in orbit above. The Spiders have developed pre-space flight technology and struggle with the 250-year freeze-and-thaw cycle of their planet's On/Off variable star. The orbiting humans consist of two factions. The Qeng Ho have goals of trade and communication. The Emergents have the more direct agenda of conquest and domination. As the book proceeds, we watch the Spiders develop technically and socially. Simultaneously, the more advanced Emergents and Qeng Ho intrigue, fight, integrate, intrigue and fight. It all works out much better than it should.

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. It has uses and abuses, not always easy to distinguish.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Loved A Fire Upon the Deep, hated this follow up May 28 2012
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Seriously unreadable. Got halfway though the book before realising I didn't care about any of the characters. Didn't even finish it.
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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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Most recent customer reviews
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 A truly great book deserving 6 stars!!
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... Read more
Published on Dec 4 2003 by Charles G. Fry
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Sci-fi Intrigue for the Hardy Reader
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 more
Published on Sept. 19 2003 by Dave Deubler
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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