Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club
A Deepness in the Sky (1999)
1999 Nebula Award Nominee
2000 Hugo Award Winner
Tor paperback - 774 pages
inside cover art by Boris Vallejo (left)
note-cover is shiny silver, not deep gray
Tor Books hardcover - 606 pages
cover art by Bob Eggleton (right)
Amy's Summary :
Vernor Vinge - A Deepness in the Sky
The OnOff star is an astrophysical enigma, repeatedly burning brightly for 35 years, then shutting off and glowing dimly for 215 years. There's a lone planet circling this unusual sun, and radio signals are detected from coming from it.
Two separate expedition fleets to the OnOff star meet in space, the Qeng Ho who are interstellar traders, and the Emergents who are conquerors of planets. Different goals and values. The Qeng Ho seek knowledge and potential customers, the Emergents hope to find treasure. The Qeng Ho have superior technology, but the Emergents have Focus, a method for humans to operate at peak efficiency. Their uneasy alliance soon breaks down, and the survivors are stranded in the solar system. They need the help of the aliens to rebuild their starships.
Down on the planet, Arachna, are the aliens, the Spiders. They hibernate in a Deepness when the Dark comes, and emerge centuries later after their sun relights. They are using inventions to stay awake later into the Dark to gain advantage over war time enemies when the humans arrive. Spider technology is speedily advancing from farm machinery and automobiles to atomic energy and computers.summary written by
10 Wow! Don't miss it
8-9 Highly recommended
5-6 Mild recommendation
3-4 Take your chances
1-2 Below average; skip it
0 Get out the flamethrower!
U Unfinishable or unreadable
- Skipped or no rating given
Vernor Vinge - A Deepness in the Sky
This didn't wow me as much as A Fire Upon the Deep - it's mostly set on and around a single planet, instead of the galactic scale of Fire - but I think Vinge's prose is quite a bit better in this book. He was able to evoke emotional responses from me, including making me feel physically nauseated by Qiwi's relationship with Tomas Nau. The characters develop in interesting ways, especially Pham Nuwen, who starts out as an almost mythical figure, then begins to seem uncomfortably similar to Nau in his ambitions. The final outcome of his internal conflict is effective and believable.
As always, Vinge loads up his fiction with plenty of interesting ideas, such as the future practice of software archeology, and the possibility of creating what is in effect artificial intelligence using the human brain.
The alien Spiders are physically interesting, but behaviorally almost identical to humans. This was clearly a deliberate choice by Vinge. Because the Spiders are at our level of technology, he wanted them to seem more familiar to us than the future humans. This all struck me as too unlikely. Surely the Spiders (or any alien race) would have significant cultural differences. At a minimum, since their sun scours the surface of the world clean once every generation, shouldn't the Spiders do more of their building underground? Vinge brings in a moral issue concerning the few children who are born "out of phase" with the others, but shouldn't there be other cultural differences resulting from the fact that almost all the members of each generation are born at the same time? To be fair, Vinge does attempt to justify the Spiders' familiarity by telling us we're reading an anthropomorphized translation of their stories. Keeping the Spiders from seeming too alien also makes it easier for Vinge to contrast the Spiders' "Dawn Age" optimism, personified by Sherkaner, with future humanity's stagnation. Everyone but Pham Nuwen has accepted that each human world will always be stuck in a cycle of good years and dark ages.
My only serious complaint is that this novel is too long. Part Two is quite drawn out, alternating between Pham Nuwen and Ezr Vinh waiting and waiting, we're not sure for what, and adventures of Sherkaner's children, only tangentially related to the main story line. If Vinge had only tightened this book up a bit, it could have been truly outstanding.What do you think? Your comments are welcome. Please send them to