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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge

A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge. New York: Tor, 1999. ISBN: 0-312-85683-0

What a complicated plot line this story weaves! It would be diffi­cult to distill it into a few sentences. First, there is a human trader empire, the Qeng Ho, that has lasted for centuries, millennia? Individuals in their extended “families” can live for centuries, using a combination of time shifting and cold sleep, as they travel from star to star.

Then there is an anomalous star, one that shuts itself off every few years, then reignites. And, even more amazing, when the Qeng Ho expedition gets there, they find an intelligent race of spider-like creatures there, just on the cusp of their first industrial revolution.

But another splinter human civilization, calling themselves the Emergents, gets there shortly after the Qeng Ho, and barely wins the resulting quick and devastating space war. Now the survivors have to pick up the pieces, and hang on until the spiders can bring their civilization to a high enough level technologically to refuel and rebuild the human fleet of spaceships. But all the while, some of the surviving Qeng Ho are plotting to retake control from the Emergents, who practice a kind of human slavery, and who also plan to enslave the spiders.

It's great science fiction in the best space opera sense, long, involved, convoluted plots, but a rewarding and entertaining read. If I have any quibble, it's that Vinge makes the alien spiders all too human in their thinking and behavior. They just seem like human beings in an alien shape. But that is merely a quibble. Definitely recommended. Incidentally, this novel won a Hugo Award in 2000.

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