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A Deepness in the Sky (Zones of Thought) Mass Market Paperback – January 15, 2000

336 customer reviews
Book 2 of 4 in the Zones of Thought Series

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Editorial Reviews Review

This hefty novel returns to the universe of Vernor Vinge's 1993 Hugo winner A Fire Upon the Deep--but 30,000 years earlier. The story has the same sense of epic vastness despite happening mostly in one isolated solar system. Here there's a world of intelligent spider creatures who traditionally hibernate through the "Deepest Darkness" of their strange variable sun's long "off" periods, when even the atmosphere freezes. Now, science offers them an alternative... Meanwhile, attracted by spider radio transmissions, two human starfleets come exploring--merchants hoping for customers and tyrants who want slaves. Their inevitable clash leaves both fleets crippled, with the power in the wrong hands, which leads to a long wait in space until the spiders develop exploitable technology. Over the years Vinge builds palpable tension through multiple storylines and characters. In the sky, hopes of rebellion against tyranny continue despite soothing lies, brutal repression, and a mental bondage that can convert people into literal tools. Down below, the engagingly sympathetic spiders have their own problems. In flashback, we see the grandiose ideals and ultimate betrayal of the merchant culture's founder, now among the human contingent and pretending to be a senile buffoon while plotting, plotting... Major revelations, ironies, and payoffs follow. A powerful story in the grandest SF tradition. --David Langford, --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

A war between two rival civilizations over trading rights to the planet Arachna results in the virtual enslavement of the Qeng Ho by the victorious Emergent culture. As the Spider-folk of Arachna evolve in their customary cyclical pattern, unaware of the threat that lies in their near future, a few Qeng Ho rebels work desperately to free themselves and save Arachna from conquest. This prequel to A Fire Upon the Deep (Tor, 1992) demonstrates Vinge's capacity for meticulously detailed culture-building and grand-scale sf drama. Recommended for most sf collections.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Zones of Thought (Book 2)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 800 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; Reprint edition (January 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812536355
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812536355
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 1.3 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (336 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #164,851 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

115 of 116 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 15, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Some have questioned the relation between A Deepness in the Sky and A Fire Upon the Deep, complaining that, aside from being in the same universe and sharing one character, that they have nothing in common.
I beg to differ.
A Deepness in the Sky is a Fire Upon the Deep turned inside out. There is a brilliant symmetry between the two novels and I definitely believe that either novel is enhanced by the reading of the other.
AFUtD was grand space opera. It was also representative of what Mr. Vinge hopes the future can be: unlimited vistas and boundless advances in technology. As a consequence, the book had a tendency to focus on its grand vision to the detriment of its characters, who ended up feeling flattened by comparison (read some of the Amazon customer reviews for AFUtD to see what I mean).
ADitS, by contrast, represents Mr. Vinge's fear of what the future may hold for us. If technology does, in fact, plateau at some level and if the technological singularity is never achieved, Mr. Vinge predicts that humanity will be doomed to an endless sequence of technological rises and falls. ADitS makes, in my opinion, some very good cases for this. As a consequence, even though the book is chock full of high technology, with respect to our civilization, and even though it imagines humanity spread among the stars, it manages to convey a sense of claustrophobia - especially for those who have read AFUtD. Because the universe is so "cramped", the focus of the novel is directed (with almost painful intensity) upon the characters of the novel.
This novel is long and it has more than its fair share of depressing aspects. I can not, however, think of anything that ought to have been subtracted from it.
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119 of 127 people found the following review helpful By Will Martyn on February 11, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Vinge's body of work stands as a rebuke to that majority of SF writers who crank out a book or two of mediocrity every year. Although Vinge's books appear at three to four year intervals, each of them is a gem. His skills are getting even better, and this book and its predecessor, "A Fire Upon the Deep," will surely be considered classics.
Vinge has all of the tools of a good SF writer: a mastery of science, creativity in projecting future developments, and the grasp of history necessary to make future societies believable. He's also a good writer. He creates credible characters. The good guys have weaknesses and the bad guys a few admirable traits. His scenic descriptions aren't great, but he does succeed occasionally in creating a sense of place for his exotic locales.
But what marks Vinge as great is his logic. Many writers give have their protagonists win either because their opponents are stupid or are implausibly blind to key weaknesses in their position. The baddies in "Deepness" are smart and are constantly a half step ahead of the good guys, which makes for an exciting read. And, in a particularly brilliant touch, Vinge sets up the climax to look like a cheap deus ex machina, and then returns to explain how it all makes complete sense.
Finally, Vinge also plays a neat little game with part of the narrative, making it seem to be from one point of view and then slowly revealing that it is, in fact, from another.
In sum, "Deepness" is not just a good story, but a good book by a talented author who has thought through everything. If you buy it, maybe Vinge can quit his day job and give us more like it.
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53 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Saucy on January 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Any new book by Vinge is a must-read for me, especially in the wasteland of GOOD science-fiction, where great reads are few and far between. A Fire Upon The Deep is still one of my favorites of all time, so when I saw this puppy on the shelf, I grabbed it right away. And despite only a loose link to that book, this is probably some of the best science-fiction I've read in years. At first I was worried that there would be too many recycled ideas, like any first-contact novel. But really this is a book about the limitations of civilizations, whether limited by environment, like the Spiders, or limited by history, like the Qeng Ho and every other human civilization mentioned in the book. And at a broader level, for those who've read A Fire Upon The Deep, it's indirectly about the limits of technology, and the Failed Dreams which the characters could never realize are caused by their location in the galaxy. The book also has a lot to say about cultural blinders and how we perceive others-I also thought the Spiders were too human at first but by the end Vinge patiently and cleverly explained it all. And while a lot of what the book has to say about human nature is very pessimistic (slavery and the inevitable fall of civilizations), it ultimately ends on a positive note. Although lacking the scope and grandeur of the galaxy as protrayed in Fire, this book complements Fire by being more inward-looking, and manages to deliver what most science fiction can't deliver-real, believable people. Buy it! Now! Why are you still here? Go!
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Bill Mac on December 28, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Vernor Vinge is one of the least prolific writers of the SF genre, yet his small canon contains some of the modern SF masterpieces. His True Names, along with Gibson's Neuromancer, is quite clearly an inspiration for works like The Matrix. Marooned in Real Time is one of the most unique murder mysteries, set during time travel after the disappearance of the entire human race. A Fire Upon the Deep is a masterful space opera and clear successor to the novels of Doc Smith. A Deepness in the Sky is a prequel to A Fire Upon the Deep and is every bit as good as the earlier novels, perhaps even better.
A Deepness in the Sky features one of A Fire Upon the Deep's protagonists, Pham Nuwen. In the first novel, Nuwen briefly mentions his life with the space faring Qeng Ho traders. Deepness features his last and perhaps greatest adventure among the Qeng Ho. Nuwen is just one of many fascinating characters who Vinge has created. Unlike his earlier works, in which only a few characters had depth, Deepness has a large cast of characters and Vinge develops them skillfully. Vinge draws from a pool that he has created by merging the Qeng Ho with the tyrannical Emergents and alien Spiders. In doing so, he has created a massive tour de force and one of the great novels of alien first contact.
A Deepness in the Sky is a long novel (over 600 pages) with several different threads going simultaneously. We are treated to Pham Nuwen and Ezr Vinh of the Qeng Ho and Tomas Nau of the Emergents engaging in plots that are only explained in bits and pieces as the novel progresses. On the Spider side, Vinge features Sherkaner Underhill, his family and his friends.
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