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5.0 out of 5 stars Great science fiction
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...
Published on May 12 2004 by elwin

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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.
Unfortunately,...
Published on Aug. 14 2003 by E.K.


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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
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great science fiction, May 12 2004
By 
elwin "elwin" (Cambridge, MA USA) - See all my reviews
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A truly great book deserving 6 stars!!, Dec 4 2003
By 
Charles G. Fry "cgfry" (Madison, WI) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Sci-fi Intrigue for the Hardy Reader, Sept. 19 2003
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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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This might be my new favorite book, July 10 2003
By 
Virginia P. Warren (Montgomery, AL United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Deepness in the Sky (Mass Market Paperback)
Virginia says:
If you have not read _A_Fire_Upon_the_Deep_, stop reading this review and go read it. Now! And don't read any more of this review until you do. While the books are not related plot-wise, there are elements of AFUtD that will enjoy more (in my opinion) if you don't know too much about _A_Deepness_in_the_Sky_.
If you have read _A_Fire_Upon_the_Deep_, and I hope you have, you might wonder if the Qeng Ho and Pham Nuwen were real (in the context of Vinge's fictional universe, of course). In _A_Deepness_in_the_Sky_ you'll find out. This book is amazing on many levels. It has interesting, emotionally engaging characters who grow and change before your eyes. It has a fascinating technological environment. It has an imaginatively conceived alien race who live on a very strange world. Most of all, it explores issues of freedom in a way that will make any person who thinks that people should be coerced by authority "for the good of society" think again. I was moved to tears more than once while reading this book, not only by the characters' pain, but also by their joy.
I dearly hope that Vinge expands on this series. Considering the magnitude of his talent, I find it astonishing that so much of his work has fallen out of print...
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4.0 out of 5 stars Vernor Vinge possesses a deep understanding of human behavio, June 24 2003
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This review is from: A Deepness in the Sky (Mass Market Paperback)
Vernor Vinge is nothing if not a master of space opera. He is nothing if not a master at developing multi-dimensional characters - both human and non-human - in a complex web of relationships that samples the entire range of emotion, from love, empathy and understanding at one end to repugnance and hatred on the other. One reviewer here, in particular, was stunned at Vinge's characterization of a rape scene. It was disgusting and vile - no doubt about it - but it is undeniably a feature of human behavior. Likewise, the mark of a master of fiction is to draw from the continuum of human behavior and develop characters that embody all of these - because WE embody all of these. (No offense to the sensitivities of that reader). Further, he's done a competent job of illustrating how a star which cycles through extremes could give life to a planet while at the same providing a nucleus for religious movement, social mores and definitions of deviance to form.
Though some readers have complained that the book was too long and hit a few slow spots, I felt Vinge did a remarkable job of illustrating how the social undercurrents, revenge conspiracies, market economy and stratified society formed by the "Focused", "unfocused" and Podmasters might take shape. In contrast to these strengths, however, one feels that the spiders could have been made more believable if Vinge had really put you inside of their heads; if he had made you feel and think how spiders do, rather than simply telling us. A work from Edward Levy, "The Beast Within" illustrates this vividly. One can almost feel the raw desire to run through the high grass when the human-turned animal smells the scent of prey in the night air. I think a similar device would have made the spiders more alien and our sympathy for them more pointed. Still, one finishes the book with an uplifted and optimistic feeling and a genuine fondness for the spiders.
Again, I am deeply impressed by Vernor!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Vernor Vinge possesses a deep understanding of human behavio, June 24 2003
By 
This review is from: A Deepness in the Sky (Mass Market Paperback)
Vernor Vinge is nothing if not a master of space opera. He is nothing if not a master at developing multi-dimensional characters - both human and non-human - in a complex web of relationships that samples the entire range of emotion, from love, empathy and understanding at one end to repugnance and hatred on the other. One reviewer here, in particular, was stunned at Vinge's characterization of a rape scene. It was disgusting and vile - no doubt about it - but it is undeniably a feature of human behavior. Likewise, the mark of a master of fiction is to draw from the continuum of human behavior and develop characters that embody all of these - because WE embody all of these. (No offense to the sensitivities of that reader). Further, he's done a competent job of illustrating how a star which cycles through extremes could give life to a planet while at the same providing a nucleus for religious movement, social mores and definitions of deviance to form.
Though some readers have complained that the book was too long and hit a few slow spots, I felt Vinge did a remarkable job of illustrating how the social undercurrents, revenge conspiracies, market economy and stratified society formed by the "Focused", "unfocused" and Podmasters might take shape. In contrast to these strengths, however, one feels that the spiders could have been made more believable if Vinge had really put you inside of their heads; if he had made you feel and think how spiders do, rather than simply telling us. A work from Edward Levy, "The Beast Within" illustrates this vividly. One can almost feel the raw desire to run through the high grass when the human-turned animal smells the scent of prey in the night air. I think a similar device would have made the spiders more alien and our sympathy for them more pointed. Still, one finishes the book with an uplifted and optimistic feeling and a genuine fondness for the spiders.
Again, I am deeply impressed by Vernor!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Vernor Vinge possesses a deep understanding of human behavio, June 12 2003
By 
This review is from: A Deepness in the Sky (Hardcover)
Vernor Vinge is nothing if not a master of space opera. He is nothing if not a master at developing multi-dimensional characters - both human and non-human - in a complex web of relationships that samples the entire range of emotion, from love, empathy and understanding at one end to repugnance and hatred on the other. One reviewer here, in particular, was stunned at Vinge's characterization of a rape scene. It was disgusting and vile - no doubt about it - but it is undeniably a feature of human behavior. Likewise, the mark of a master of fiction is to draw from the continuum of human behavior and develop characters that embody all of these - because WE embody all of these. (No offense to the sensitivities of that reader). Further, he's done a competent job of illustrating how a star which cycles through extremes could give life to a planet while at the same providing a nucleus for religious movement, social mores and definitions of deviance to form.
Though some readers have complained that the book was too long and hit a few slow spots, I felt Vinge did a remarkable job of illustrating how the social undercurrents, revenge conspiracies, market economy and stratified society formed by the "Focused", "unfocused" and Podmasters might take shape. In contrast to these strengths, however, one feels that the spiders could have been made more believable if Vinge had really put you inside of their heads; if he had made you feel and think how spiders do, rather than simply telling us. A work from Edward Levy, "The Beast Within" illustrates this vividly. One can almost feel the raw desire to run through the high grass when the human-turned animal smells the scent of prey in the night air. I think a similar device would have made the spiders more alien and our sympathy for them more pointed. Still, one finishes the book with an uplifted and optimistic feeling and a genuine fondness for the spiders.
Again, I am deeply impressed by Vernor!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Could have been 200 pages shorter, June 4 2003
By 
D. C Smith (Orlando, FL) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Deepness in the Sky (Mass Market Paperback)
I am a pretty heavy SF reader, and this is the first Vernor Vinge book I've read. I wanted to read this book first (because it is the prequel) before I read his award winning "A Fire upon the Deep". But I was somewhat disappointed at how so many pages of this book were devoted to nothing that mattered at the end (probably why this book didn't win any awards). About 200 pages in the middle of the book could be deleted for a much faster, more satisfying read. It's not to say details are unimportant, but when you get to the conclusion of the this book you start asking yourself "Did I miss something?" because very little if any of the character development and desciptions of daily life aboard the ship or on the spider world seems to matter much towards the end. The characters are pretty well established in the beginning and end. The end of the book happens lightening fast, too fast in my opinion. For instance, only a brief page or two is devoted to the crash landing of the "Invisible Hand" starship into the spiders world. I think this scene could have been described in much more detail and horror. It's like one minute they're plunging through the atmosphere and the next they're already down. Anyway, if you have a lot of time on your hands and don't mind about 200 pages of unnecessary detail, then you'll like this book. But if you're in the habit of reading a chapter at night before you fall asleep then you will forget a lot of stuff. I am looking forward to reading "A Fire upon the Deep" next.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A deepness in a novel, May 29 2003
By 
Matthew Kressel (Hoboken, NJ) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Deepness in the Sky (Mass Market Paperback)
When I read the first chapter/introduction to this novel I thought I had read the best first chapter of any novel, ever. But I was quickly let down. First off, I would like to say that overall it's a good novel. But it's lacking something, in my opinion, which made his last novel, "A Fire Upon the Deep," so great. "A Deepness in the Sky" comes in at almost 800 pages. I recall somewhere in the beginning there being an obscure reference to "There and Back Again" (aka "The Hobbit"), and one of the Spiders' last name is Underhill -- hardly a veiled reference or deference to Tolkien. But, unlike Tolkien, Vinge fails to keep me enthralled for all 800 plus pages. There IS a good story here, but it is often buried under chapters and pages of trivialities. He'll often set a scene, introduce new characters and create a chapter just to tell us one small detail like, "they had a meeting." Some sci-fi readers may like these excruciating details, but I found them laborous and boring and they took me away from the more interesting plot lines and enchanting characters like Pham Nuwen. Vinge sets up a large universe here, but then keeps the story centered around one planet. Besides its unique star, this is a very dull solar system. But the largest problem I had with the story is the fact that the Spiders -- the alien race which live on the visited planet -- are not very alien at all. Sure they look grotesque, but one might as well be reading a book of human history. The Spider's rise into a space-faring global culture is impossibly dull, only because they mirror humanity's rise to the letter. I found this highly frustrating because I know from his last novel that Vinge is much more creative with alien species. It was hard to sit through 800 pages recounting human history with a spider face. The novel did have some redeeming aspects, however. The back story of Pham Nuwen is fascinating, though I didn't buy the Brisgo Gap fiasco where the founder of the trader society is ostracized from the inhabited worlds. Also, I find it hard to believe that no one ever thought of creating a trader culture before him. But that kind of plot hole is acceptable in epic stories like this because we need a central character unto which all things rotate. Here is an 800 page book with 400 pages of really good story, and 400 pages of the author being self-indulgent. Did I like it? Yes. Did I love it? Well.... ;)
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A Deepness in the Sky
A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge (Mass Market Paperback - Jan. 15 2000)
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