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Vernor Vinge – A Deepness in the Sky

Title: A Deepness in the Sky
Author: Vernor Vinge
Narrotor: Gary Tipton
Year: 1999

Immediately after finishing A Fire upon the Deep, I continued with A Deepness in the Sky, also by Vernor Vinge. There are many similarities between the two books, apart from the obvious ones related to the fact that they are written by the same author. I have about the same comments on general things like language and style, so I will not bother you with repeating what has already been said.

The time is set to a long time before the events of A Fire upon the Deep, so the books are so loosely tied together that they can be read in any desired order without risk of spoiling something important. The story is again divided into two parallel threads which gradually coalesce. The first one depicts a merchant fleet approaching a star with mysterious astrophysical attributes, namely that it is only active in cycles. When they arrive, they find that they are not the only ones interested in acquiring the treasure that might reside in beyond the mystery of the star and conflict soon arise between the two fleets.

A single planet in orbit around this star has developed a peculiar form of arachnoid life and the second thread is focused on them and their existence (another parallel to A Fire upon the Deep, which also features aliens on a low-tech world). An extraordinary mind has sparked a furious technological development, tearing apart the traditions and values built up over millennia, by suggesting and introducing the means to survive the dark (i.e. when the star is inactive) without hibernation. This causes social as well as political upheaval for the spiders.

It should be mentioned that the focus of the novel is on characters involved in these stories, and even if the framework is important, it is still mostly there to provide a setting for the characters to interact with. However, the setting is not as interesting as in A Fire upon the Deep, which is a pity, because the other aspects of the novel are better than those of the previous book. In general, I relate much more to the characters and their problems and dilemmas seem more relevant. Also, the balance between the two story lines is much more delicately handled in a Deepness in the Sky.

To summarise, I like the characters and the structure of the story much better in A Deepness in the Sky. However, the setting is not as innovative and does not spark inspiration, which was one of the main reasons as to why I liked A Fire upon the Deep. These two aspects roughly cancels each other, meaning that I will give identical grades to both novels, i.e. four snails.

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