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Reviews of Deepness in the Sky, a (1999)

Review by kadambi (2009-06-19)
Astounding! A Deepness in the Sky is, in a way much more grander in scope than A Fire Upon the Deep. It has all the elements of a grand space opera: Adventure, treachery and a marvelous rescue.

It is very easy to take sides in this book. The emergents are clearly the villains and the Qeng Ho, with their undying principle of free trade, the good guys. But the best characters are the Aliens and in particular Sherkaner Underhill, whose erudition and imagination truly knows no bounds.

Great narrative and highly engrossing! Toward the end, the plot unfolds in a spectacular fashion leading to stunning revelations. It has an immensely satisfying ending.

If you read A Fire Upon the Deep, you should read this! Well, you should read this even otherwise.

(This review refers to the 2000 version titled “A Deepness in the Sky”)

Review by misaelf (2006-03-26)
Very good story, very clever ideas, some nice allusions to classic science fiction tales from Asimov to H.G. Wells. And yet, the pacing is so slow in this rather lengthy story that reading this book is much more of an effort than a joy. It requires a great deal of concentration and patience, but the diligent reader will find it rewarding if he can stick with it. Not as good or as grandiose as A Fire Upon the Deep, which also can be difficult to trudge through but which should nevertheless be attempted first.

Review by clong (2005-04-08)
I found A Deepness in the Sky to be slow going at first, and I had a hard time finding much sympathy for any of the human characters. But, I stuck with it and by the end had come around to thinking it is one of the great recent science fiction novels.

The Emergents are truly creepy and despicable bad guys; Vinge does an effective job of gradually revealing more and more reasons to hate them. I felt ambivalent about the other human faction in the book, the Qeng Ho, who had both good points and bad points; it was only as I understood the depravity of the Emergents that I started really rooting for other side.

The alien "Spiders" are the best thing about the book. For me, Sherkaner Underhill and his family were the true protagonists of the story, and very easy to root for. He is a brilliant alien scientist who has yet to discover much of what the secretly-orbiting-and-spying-down-on-them humans already know. His entire family plays a critical role in the political and military maneuverings on-planet and in the ultimate system-wide resolution when the humans finally act.

The pace eventually picks up and builds to an exciting climax and satisfying conclusion with plenty of surprises. It's only very loosely associated with A Fire Upon the Deep; I wouldn't really call it part of a series.

Review by mwisse (2003-03-10)
Vernor Vinge only wrote two novels in the nineties, this and the 1992 A Fire upon the Deep, which won that year's Hugo award. The books are set in the same universe, though differ a lot from each other. Where AFutD was pure quill space opera where the action was set over galactical distances, here the stage is just one star system. Theoretically, ADitS is a prequel to AFutD, but I strongly recommend to read the books in publication order, otherwise you miss a lot of the tension in ADitS.

The story proper begins when alien radio signals are recieved from the OnOff Star, a fairly normal star, but with the singular habit to turn itself periodically off at times. Two human expeditions arrive at the star, one a Queng Ho expedition, the other from a local culture called the Emergents. While the Queng Ho are libertarian traders, the Emergent are collectivistic and tyrannical in nature. Mutual distrust lead to a short battle and the survivors have to work together to stay alive.

With the Quen Ho expedition, unknowingly to all, the legendary founder of them, Pham Nugen is on board. Singlehandedly he's the resistance against the Emergent rule after the first disastrous battles. Through plot, counterplot and a few reality shifts the battle for freedom is fought, while at the same time the Spider world is investigated and helped.

The second story line is set on the alien world and follows the adventures of Sherkaner Underhill, who combines the best qualities of Einstein, Edison, Opperheimer and others. His world is rapidly changing and within the story, which is spread out over a fair number of years, the tech level gets up from twenties equivalent to better then contemporary. Underhill is the driving force behind all this.

The Spider good guys, a "nation" called the Accord, has to withstand and crush challenges of less enlightened "countries" whils avoiding nuclear armageddon. Behind the scenes, the humans are meddling to help their friends, or are they?

This book is brilliantly entertaining and thought provoking. Paradigms are shifted several times in the story and nothing is quite what it seems at first, up until the very end of the book. At the same time, thanks to what we know from having read AFutD, there is also an underlying irony and sadness which permeates this novel, a sense of futility.

(Taken from my booklog at

Martin Wisse

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