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A Deepness in the Sky

by Vernor Vinge

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.

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Publishers Weekly In this prequel to his Hugo Award-winning space opera, A Fire upon the Deep (1992), Vinge takes us to an era some thousands of years in our future, when humanity has just begun its exploration of intergalactic space and has as yet no inkling of the complex physics that rules the galaxy. Although human beings have settled on dozens of worlds and created societies ancient enough to have achieved greatness and collapse several times over, only the most limited traces have been found of alien cultures. Now, however, the Qeng Ho, a band of human interstellar traders, have discovered the Spiders, an alien race poised to enter its own space age. Unfortunately, the Qeng Ho must compete with another, less beneficent spacefaring human culture, the Emergents, who are bent on conquest rather than trade. The Spiders have just come out of a two-century-long suspended animation made necessary by the fluctuations of their erratic sun. Their culture is entering a period of explosive growth that could end in tragedy, due in part to a dangerous nuclear arms race and in part to the Emergents' desire to enslave them. Vinge, a professor of mathematics and computer science (at San Diego State), is among the very best of the current crop of hard SF writers, producing work that is not only fast-paced and intellectually challenging, but also stylishly written and centered on carefully drawn characters. This long, action-packed novel should fully engage any SF reader's sense of wonder, and likely will win the author his sixth Hugo nomination. (Mar.)

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Book list An authentic master of the hard-sf epic returns with a prequel to the Hugo-winning Fire upon the Deep (1992). Set a mere 30 millennia before Fire begins, Deepness goes far toward explaining how Fire's Pham Nuwen acquired shrewdness and reluctant heroism. Traveling with one band of traders, the Qeng Ho, Pham is ready to help them profit by development of the planet Arachna until a gang of near-pirates, the Emergents, attack the Qeng Ho, enslave survivors, and seem ready to do the same to the planet. Pham's shiftings and expedients to prevent that catastrophe are too complicated to summarize. Suffice it to say that he succeeds and, in the process, fills all 600 pages tightly, allowing few gaps in the action. Indeed, said action and the grand sweep of the setting sometimes shove the characters into the wings, rather as we have come to expect of David Brin. Like Brin's best books, Vinge's new one is a treat, especially for fans of the intelligent space epic. --Roland Green

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.