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A Deepness in the Sky (Zones of Thought) by…
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A Deepness in the Sky (Zones of Thought) (edition 2000)

by Vernor Vinge

Series: Zones of Thought (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,609622,674 (4.25)88
After thousands of years of searching, humans stand on the verge of first contract with an alien race. Two human groups: The Qeng Ho, a culture of free, innovative 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 the alien planet to reawaken, as it does every two hundred and fifty years...Amidst terrible treachery, The Qeng Ho must flight for their freedom and for the lives for the unsuspecting innocents on the planet below, white 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.… (more)
Member:michayla
Title:A Deepness in the Sky (Zones of Thought)
Authors:Vernor Vinge
Info:Tor Books (2000), Mass Market Paperback, 792 pages
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned
Rating:****
Tags:fiction, sci fi, gave away

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A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge

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English (57)  Italian (2)  Dutch (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (61)
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
Perhaps Vinge's best novel. ( )
  xevooy | Jul 20, 2021 |
I find it was better than the first Zone novel. ( )
  harroldsheep | May 21, 2021 |
I really want to rate this 5 stars. As it is my rating should be 4.5.

What made this book special for me was that I had no idea where the story was going. I read a lot and I often find that after reading 20-25% of a book I have a basic idea about the general outline of the story. This often makes reading a bit boring. But with this book I had no idea, mainly because there were so many options. There were some brilliant twists and a tiny remark at the end which cleared up what was a rather big question for me.

So why isn't this a 5 star rating? I think the ending was a bit too pat, and a couple of what should have been major issues were not addressed. But overall this is a rather minor problem. Definitely one of the best sf books I have read. ( )
  Andorion | Feb 6, 2021 |
DNF at page 122.

A prequel to A Fire Upon the Deep set some 30,000 years prior, this is a work of hard scifi with a strong military feel as two human civilizations come into conflict over a planet which home to a sentient alien species. Unlike the first book, which greatly intrigued me with the culture of the pack-minded Tines, this one presents aliens that are essentially quite human but with a lot more arms. Furthermore, the pace dragged to the point of tedium and presenting all times in seconds was disruptive to the reading experience. ( )
  Zoes_Human | Jan 3, 2021 |
I’ve read two of Vernor Vinge’s other books – the space epic A Fire Upon the Deep and the near-future thriller Rainbows End – both of which would be included on any list of my favorite sci-fi stories of all time. A Deepness in the Sky is a distant prequel to A Fire Upon the Deep, following the adventures of an expeditionary merchant fleet as it travels to the celestial anomaly known as the OnOff star, a distant solar system home to a pre-flight species of intelligent arachnids dubbed the “Spiders”.

This is one of those instances where I think reading the books in chronological order would have been superior to reading them in the order they were published. A Fire Upon the Deep is a true epic – the characters traverse vast interstellar distances, technology has been pushed to further extremes, their adversaries are malevolent superintelligences from the galactic halo, and the fate of the universe may well be at stake. A Deepness in the Sky, while no less enjoyable a story (and actually a fair bit more readable), is of a distinctly more local scale. The reader follows the actions of a few ships around a single planet. There are mysteries to uncover, but nothing quite approaching the eldritch monstrosities of a few millennia later. It is by no means bad, but it is a very distinct shift in tone.

The reader will nevertheless notice the parallels between the stories almost immediately. As before, a spacefaring civilization has come across a more technologically primitive alien planet, and begins manipulating them to their own ends. The Spiders, unfortunately, come up a little short in comparison to the Tines. The aliens of A Fire Upon the Deep are, in this one’s humble opinion, some of the best-written extraterrestrials in all of fiction – a medieval-era race of intelligent canines that use ultrasonic sounds to pool their consciousnesses, forming gestalt individuals out of pack of individual bodies. So much of the fun of Fire was exploring the entirely alien civilization of the Tines, how culture and society would develop on a planet where a chunk of your personality can literally get up and leave. The Spiders, by comparison, are practically human. There’s an admittedly clever literary device where it’s strongly suggested that all the scenes depicting the Spiders – the ones seeming to be from a third-person omniscient narrator – are in fact retellings from a human translator, retellings that have thoroughly anthropomorphized even the most alien of behaviors. For the purposes of the story it works fine, though I kept catching myself visualizing the aliens as two-legged humans instead of two-foot spiders. Apart from a few details – and a minor subplot involving the “perversion” of Arachnid children born out of the usual mating cycle – they’re about as alien as your average denizen of Jabba’s Palace. (Which is to say: not really) The technological uplifting isn’t quite as much of a ride, either. There’s no equivalent to vicariously experiencing the Tines’ discovery of radio waves; the Spiders develop satellites and fiber-optics and ICBMS practically as afterthoughts.

One of the really fun things about the book, though, is the way the humans behave almost like the stereotypical aliens of 20th century science-fiction. They sneak down to the Arachnid planet to steal books about their languages, sabotage their satellites to remain hidden in a Lagrangian point, mess around with their radio signals to meddle in domestic politics. It’s almost cute, getting to play as the grey aliens for once.

Probably the most interesting concept in Deepness is that of “Focus”. Early in the book, the mercantile Qeng Ho fleet is conquered by the Emergents – a human civilization that had nuked itself into the Dark Ages and only recently re-emerged into space. While laggards in many eras (certainly when it comes to morality), the Emergent have a critical edge over the Qeng Ho, who they encounter en route to OnOff – Focus. Developed from a virus that nearly wiped out their civilization, Focus releases neurotoxins into the brain that, when stimulated via MRI, send the victim into a state of literal hyperfocus, causing them to devote themselves mind, body, and soul to the subject of their intellectual specialization. The Emergent use this technology to create the most effective slave caste in history – one which never rebels, never dissents, and wants absolutely nothing to do but devote themselves to their conqueror’s cause.

One of the things Deepness does well is toy with just how tempting this technology would be, particularly through the perspective of Pham Nuwen. Pham was sort of a middlingly-interesting character in Fire, where there’s almost a throwaway line that he was once rescued from a Dark Age world and spent centuries traversing space as a sort of barbarian prince. It’s a neat bit of characterization, but not actually all that relevant to the plot. Deepness really gives him his due.

A recurring theme in both works in the Zones of Thought series is the ephemerality of civilization. Humans populate a planet, colonize the nearby stars, descend into despotism, and inevitably nuke themselves back to a pre-spaceflight tech level, sometimes for millennia. In the time of Deepness, humans are still limited by the speed-of-light, making any attempt to coordinate across the interstellar expanse of humanity a futile endeavor. Even the Qeng Ho merchant fleets survive only because they are more a way of life than a proper civilization. This is something Pham Nuwen dreams of changing, breaking the cycle of history that humanity has seemingly locked itself into. The discovery of Focus, coupled with a few tricks up his own sleeve (above all, the technology for truly pervasive surveillance), tempt Pham Nuwen into dreaming that he can achieve the impossible dream of ending the cycle of violence.

And there is a temptation on a personal level, as well. While there are certainly horrible costs to Focus, this one suspects that many readers will at least flirt with the question of what it would be like to have hyperfocus on demand. While it costs them their free will, many of the “Focused” individuals (referred to ubiquitously as “zipheads”) are some of the brightest minds humanity has ever produced. It is what allows the Emergent to decipher the language of the Arachnids, to penetrate and manipulate their information systems, to create unrivaled mastearpieces of art.

And, most importantly, to maintain internal security. For me, the most fascinating character in the book is Anne Reynolt, the Emergents’ “Director of Human Resources”. It is in her that I have to draw a parallel to a character in another of Vinge’s other works, namely Alice Gu Gong of Rainbows End. Colonel Gu is a legendary American spymaster, working to protect 21st-century Earth from all manner of near-future horrors like rogue AI or synthetic bioweapons. Gu’s secret is that she benefits from ‘just-in-time training’ (JITT), a sort of neural hack where information can be downloaded Matrix-style into a subject’s mind. While most participants can be JITT’d only once or twice – and often with serious negative repercussions, like being stuck speaking Mandarin when stressed – Gu alone can be JITT’d again and again, making her an expert in everything from Bahasa to biosecurity auditing. Reynolt, in many ways, is Gu’s mirror darkly reflection. Reynold is a ziphead slave of the Emergents, but unlike every other ziphead, she retained her organizational and people management skills – holdovers from when she was “The Frenkisch Orc”, the head of an extraordinarily effective insurgency. While throughout Deepness she is, for narrative purposes, probably the most dangerous antagonist (imagine the despot you are trying to subvert was competent, rational, and entirely unrelenting in their pursuit of you) , she is ultimately an exceptionally tragic figure, an anti-villain of circumstance.

I feel like this review may come across as harsher than I intended. I really did enjoy the book, but it’s just outshone by its predecessor. If you enjoyed A Fire Upon the Deep and want a bit more adventure, with a bit lower stakes, then you’ll definitely enjoy this. ( )
  pvoberstein | Dec 14, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 57 (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

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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.

 --V.V.
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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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After thousands of years of searching, humans stand on the verge of first contract with an alien race. Two human groups: The Qeng Ho, a culture of free, innovative 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 the alien planet to reawaken, as it does every two hundred and fifty years...Amidst terrible treachery, The Qeng Ho must flight for their freedom and for the lives for the unsuspecting innocents on the planet below, white 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.

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