Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Deepness in the Sky (Book)

A sun that turns on and off. A spider race. Folk heroes in disguise. Brilliant slaves. People in cold sleep. Nanotechnology. Deceptions. Exploitation.

I found the 2000 Hugo award and Campbell award winning novel, Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge, brilliant and thought provoking, but I did not enjoy reading it. For me it was too long, too dark, didn’t have enough warm, and didn’t have enough science to keep my attention. Perhaps the bad guys were just too evil for me. Yet, the premise is fascinating.

An inhabited planet encircles a sun that goes on and off—almost like a furnace—every two hundred and fifty years. The planet has a very hot period, an inhabitable period, and a frigid period when the inhabitants must be in a type of hibernation underground: in the deepness. The inhabitants are a spider-like species. During each inhabitable period, the Spiders must rebuild what has been lost to the cold and relighting of the sun and then further their technology with the time they have left. Two human races go to the planet just before the relighting the sun. One is a merchant race, the Qeng Ho. The other is an opportunist race, the Emergents. The Emergents have found that by using a virus and magnetic wave technology they can create a group of slaves so focused that they are almost machinelike—think someone with Asperger syndrome but many times more focused. The Qeng Ho and Emergents briefly go to war, and the Emergents come out the winner, but their resources are seriously depleted. Along with the captured Qeng Ho, they wait for the Spiders to achieve enough technological knowledge so that they can help rebuild the Emergent ships. The Emergents monitor the Spider technology and then infiltrate and corrupt it.

I was fascinated by the concept that all civilizations rise and fall, gaining and then losing technological ability. Another interesting idea—not explored enough—was human’s ability to relate to a totally alien species. A third concept was the right to control one's own destiny.

A Deepness in the Sky is the prequel to A Fire Upon the Deep, the 1993 Hugo award winner.

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