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A Deepness in the Sky (1999)

by Vernor Vinge

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Zones of Thought (1), PFAF (90)

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3,996692,985 (4.25)107
The story of the Spiders, inhabitants of a planet where the sun regularly stops shining for periods of 200 years, during which they are frozen in ice. The novel picks them up emerging from their most recent hibernation in a frenzy of activity and innovation to make up for lost time. By the author of A Fire upon the Deep.… (more)

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English (63)  Italian (2)  Spanish (1)  Finnish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (68)
Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
I have now read/listened to this book three or four times. It actually gets better with each re-reading, as hints and details I previously missed become clear.
[Audiobook note: narrator is meh.] ( )
  Treebeard_404 | Jan 23, 2024 |
I am reading Vernor Vinge's Zones of Thought novels in publication order. This second book is set earlier than the first. It does not engage the "Zonological" ideas introduced in A Fire Upon the Deep. It is structured very similarly however, with two parallel and converging narratives, one of which is cutting-edge space opera featuring (the original, in this case) Pham Nuwen, and the other of which takes place in a radically non-human planet-bound society.

The space story involves grappling between two human spacefaring societies. The Qeng Ho are Nuwen's mature interstellar mercantile culture, while the Emergents are the totalitarian development of a more local society whose hypostasized Emergency has resulted in an innovative form of enslavement. Simultaneous missions to contact the nascently industrializing aliens of Arachna erupt into catastrophic conflict, leaving the two competitors in a lopsided symbiosis full of intrigue.

The business on the world of Arachna is translated for the reader using conventions later rationalized as the work of the humans surveilling the planet from space. Although the denizens are quasi-arthropod "Spiders," they are characterized with Hobbitsy sorts of English names and traits, such as Sherkaner Underhill and Victory Smith. Since their technological level and social challenges better match our own, these creatures actually come off as more "human" than the either of the human cultures, at least during the first three-quarters of the book before the first in-person meetings between humans and Spiders.

I found it interesting what a mature figure Pham Nuwen is in this book, "resurrected" at its start in a more figurative manner than in A Fire Upon the Deep, but still with an enormous prior history. Despite a serious developmental arc within the scope of the current story, and some significant retrospectives to flesh out his character and motivation, Vinge has left many centuries to play with if he should ever want to compose a pre-prequel using Nuwen as the connective thread.

Big ideas that are central to this book include the coercive management of human attention, and the epistemological weaponization of networked information technology. These both feel more topical now than they would have been when the book was first published in 1999. Vinge also seems to have put a new turn on Ibn Khaldūn's theories of civilizational growth and decay, and the practical superiority of organized merchants to wealthy despots. These notions become intrinsic to the premise that a sufficient "industrial ecology" is needed to support productive interaction with interstellar travelers, who cannot carry such an ecology themselves even at the scale of a fleet. But the industrialized civilizations are necessarily finite in duration, acquiring vulnerabilities with their efficiencies.

Like the previous Zones of Thought book, A Deepness in the Sky is long--eventful, characterful, and thoughtful--and it took all my reading attention for a couple of weeks in order to get through it. Looking back at my review of A Fire Upon the Deep, I find myself in the same position of being glad to have read it and being unwilling to charge on to the next one without a significant pause to recover. And I already own a copy of The Children of the Sky.
2 vote paradoxosalpha | Jan 19, 2024 |
Another fantastic book by Vinge. The main arc dragged on a bit, but the new species and cultures were superb: specifically, Arachna and The Emergent. Thankfully, nothing in the first book is required reading. Looking to finish the series soon. ( )
  MXMLLN | Jan 12, 2024 |
Great world building, so-so story.

Vernor Vinge proves once again that he's a master in thinking sci-fi concepts. This story has some very solid yet unique sci-fi ideas. Even if he ignores the (brilliant) main concept of "zones of thought" in this one, ideas like the "Focus" are equally powerful given how plausible they sound. This is a concept that will stay with me for a long time!

Unfortunately, he also shows once again he's just an ok storyteller, in my opinion. One-sided characters, goofy happy endings, and absolutely unnecessary loose ends marred this one a bit for me. ( )
  zeh | Jun 3, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Vernor Vingeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Eggleton, BobCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moore, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tervaharju, HannuTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vallejo, BorisCover Artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

Belongs to Series

PFAF (90)

Belongs to Publisher Series

SF Masterworks (New design)
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To Poul Anderson,

In learning to write science fiction, I have had many great models, but Poul Anderson's work has meant more to me than any other. Beyond that, Poul has provided me and the world with an enormous treasure of wonderful, entertaining stories - and he continues to do so.

 On a personal note, I will always be grateful to Poul and Karen Anderson for the hospitality that they showed a certain young science fiction writer back in the 1960s.

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The manhunt extended across more than one hundred light-years and eight centuries. It had always been a secret search, unacknowledged even among some of the participants.
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The story of the Spiders, inhabitants of a planet where the sun regularly stops shining for periods of 200 years, during which they are frozen in ice. The novel picks them up emerging from their most recent hibernation in a frenzy of activity and innovation to make up for lost time. By the author of A Fire upon the Deep.

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