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. 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...
Published 9 months ago by John M. Ford
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Neat ideas, but very slow moving book
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.
Published on Aug. 14 2003 by E.K.
Most Helpful First | Newest First
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Neat ideas, but very slow moving book,
This review is from: A Deepness in the Sky (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.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unreadable,
By A Customer
This review is from: A Deepness in the Sky (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.
5.0 out of 5 stars "Let the Bad Guys Win Every Once in a While",
This review is from: A Deepness in the Sky (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.
A flexible, self-organizing network technology constructed of large numbers of simple processors massively interconnected. The security and flexibility of the resulting "mesh networks" are explored by their Qeng Ho and Emergent users.
If you plan to also read A Fire Upon The Deep, then read it first for the most enjoyable experience. That said, this book can stand on its own and is good, enjoyable space opera. The story has its darker elements, but is well-worth a persistent reading. With good justification, it is considered one of science fiction's classics.
2.0 out of 5 stars Loved A Fire Upon the Deep, hated this follow up,
This review is from: A Deepness in the Sky (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.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great science fiction,
This review is from: A Deepness in the Sky (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. The totalitarians are not averse to slavery; the freedom-loving traders despise slavery.
I see one flaw in the book, which doesn't affect the science fiction or the exciting plot; only the philosophy. The flaw is that Vinge doesn't adequately account for *why* the good guys' hate slavery. After all, one could consider slavery a form of contract, or slaves an article of trade (slavery was treated this way here on earth for thousands of years). Vinge's explanation of why the traders hate slavery is essentially social taboo -- it's part of the trader culture. But it's a taboo that has lasted a thousand years and holds everywhere in the many loose-knit trader communities. Why? We know societies change and upstarts challenge taboos, so the ones that remain must serve some very useful purpose. Vinge doesn't account for the constancy of the taboo.
I think a libertarian philosophy that allowed slavery would be repugnant to many readers, so Vinge created one that prevented slavery, but his taboo mechanism is weak. I think this points up a flaw in libertarian philosophy that Vinge is struggling to deal with -- the flaw being that libertarianism may be a little to value-neutral to appeal to mainstream American readers raised on apple pie and the U.S. Constitution. I'll be interested to see how Vinge continues to deal with this issue in future writings.
Never the less, as I mentioned above, the flaw doesn't affect the plot or the science fiction; only the philosophy of the book. It's still great SF, imaginative and thought provoking, and a very enjoyable read.
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly great book deserving 6 stars!!,
This review is from: A Deepness in the Sky (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!!) about these beings as they are described not in translated human-conditioned terms, but rather in a true first-contact, "eye-to-eye" manner, is only one of the rare, and beautiful, back-shivering moments Vinge brings us to. Absolutely, read and enjoy this book!!
I do wish a sixth star could be found to rate books like this!! 5 stars are given for lesser books, because these are such rare finds.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Prequel,
This review is from: A Deepness in the Sky (Mass Market Paperback)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. The spidery aliens in this book, who are on the verge of a technical and social revolution, are brilliantly drawn. The humans and their futuristic ships and corollary technologies are highly believable. I thoroughly believe that Pham Nuwen was brought back in Deepness in the Sky because he was the strongest human character in the previous book...Vinge enhanced the Nuwen character beautifully, highlighting his strengths and elaborating on his weaknesses. Also, I thought the unusual phenomenon of a planet whose day/night cycle is decades long was a rather clever plot device that Vinge used quite well and to his full advantage. Overall, if you enjoyed its predecessor this book is certainly worth the read and highly recommended.
5.0 out of 5 stars The Deepness of the book,
This review is from: A Deepness in the Sky (Mass Market Paperback)Vernor Vinge successfully juggles about a couple dozen characters with very rich personalities with out losing track of the story. He also shows his skill by weaving many sub-plots in and out of the main plot which eventually converge into one story line.
There are few authors who can take you to a wholly different world like Vernor Vinge does in this story. I read this book about two years ago and the images are still clear to this day. I often daydream what it would be like to live in a solar system where our sun turns on and off. I think of the waning years before the sun goes out and the brutal time of the new sun.
I would agree with other reviewers that this book should not be properly called a prequel to A Fire Upon Deep.
I have read every thing from Vernor Vinge and loved it all, but A Deepness In The Sky is by far my favorite.
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Sci-fi Intrigue for the Hardy Reader,
This review is from: A Deepness in the Sky (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. It might actually have been better to break this ungainly tome up into a series of shorter novels, and try to work some hopeful note into the conclusion of each, without giving away the final resolution.
An excellent piece of sci-fi intrigue that could have been a little more tightly focused, but still ranks as top-notch escapism.
3.0 out of 5 stars Sloppy writing,
By A Customer
This review is from: A Deepness in the Sky (Mass Market Paperback)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? Where was the editor? I don't mind difficult books where the difficulty is due to complex ideas (such as A Fire upon the Deep), but in this book the difficulties are due to poor writing.
I agree with the other reviews stating that the book is bloated. A shorter version with tighter, clearer writing would be welcome.
I would recommend that newcomers to Vinge read the first book, A Fire upon the Deep, and then take a chance with this one.
Most Helpful First | Newest First
A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge (Mass Market Paperback - Jan. 15 2000)
CDN$ 10.99 CDN$ 9.89