A Deepness in the Sky

Monday, October 21, 2019

A Deepness in the Sky
Vernor Vinge, 1999

Hugo Winner - 2000

Premise: Two grand fleets are converging to attempt to solve the mystery of the On-Off Star and potentially profit thereby. The inhabitants of the circling world face war and revolution, as do the humans coming in from the stars. Set in the same universe as (but having only subtle connections to) A Fire Upon the Deep.

This book is really impressive, but it wasn't quite for me, at least not right now. It might be another book that suffered from my recent change in reading habits. It’s long and hard to read in snippets. It's really, really long. It’s good, but it’s just so... long... that I might have quit reading it if not for this project. There are a lot of characters to introduce and civilizations to set up, and the plot takes forever to really get started.

The villains are extremely villainous (to the point that anything other than a final victory by the heroes would have been extremely unpleasant to read). Most of the descriptions aren't that explicit, but warnings for sexual assault, torture, murder, super-science used to destroy minds, techno-slavery, the death of children, and other things I’m sure I’m forgetting. The heroes are innovators, scientists, free-thinkers, and a culture of trade-focused humans sometimes described with similar language to Roma or Jewish communities, while the villains are religious zealots, autocrats, misogynists, etc.

So early on I was a bit bored with the morality of the story - when it wasn't making my skin crawl.

And not because half the characters are giant intelligent spiders.

The choices of style and meta-narrative around the Spiders were great, some really interesting techniques there. The world(s) were very interesting, the characters (on the good side) complex and well crafted. There’s a lot of great sci-fi concepts here around interstellar culture, the effects of space travel and suspended animation on culture and relationships, the morality of certain technology, the difficulty in understanding a truly non-human sentient species, etc.

To deliver such a complicated story probably required this length, but even the climax went on and on as little things were revealed and various characters acted in disparate locations...which were all lovingly described...at length.

I really liked the book by the end, and it’s a tremendous accomplishment, but I had to keep making myself go back to keep reading it. I just didn’t love it.

3 Stars - A Good Book

Index of Hugo Award Winners

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