Katie's Reviews > A Deepness in the Sky

A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge
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's review
Nov 20, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: sci-fi, fiction

A Deepness in the Sky tells the story of two space-faring societies as they simultaneously arrive at the planet of a third civilization orbiting an anomalous star: one that will blink on and off at set intervals, and one that each civilization believes to hold all kind of potential. There are conflicting agendas, hidden identities, and exciting-sounding science that I only superficially understood but that was fun and never really detracted from the narrative flow. There are a couple of set pieces - I don't want to give anything away, but my favorite involves water - that are just really fantastic.

Vernor Vinge - judging by the two books of his that I've read - is an ideas guy. His books just burst with wonderful concepts, to the point that he can afford to drop amazing little details on the margins of his story as if they're not a big deal, and then move on to focus on even cooler stuff. It makes his books a lot of fun, because you get all these tiny epiphanies as you're reading and you'll think to yourself 'Oh cool, I wish I had thought of that.' And that's probably some of the best praise a book can get.

I'm a little hesitant to give this book 5 stars though, because I think there's a bit of a quality gap between Vinge's ideas and his execution of them. While I think his pacing is better than it was in A Fire Upon the Deep , the middle lags while the ending is a bit abrupt. It almost feels like the book is a collection of sections that jump from one to the next rather than a gradual narrative build. Vinge's characters are also a little bit of a mixed bag. His bad guys are pretty much Evil Power-Hungry Leader and Psychopath Second-in-Command, without too much else going on. That's okay sometimes, but the civilization that they come from had the potential for a lot more grey area than Vinge was willing to give it. Also, Vinge is not the best at dealing with big emotional moments.

I think the biggest character problem, though, is that the story is spread too thin. I like most of the characters, and I enjoyed their viewpoints, but I think the fact that there is so many of them makes it hard for Vinge to build a really good character arc for more than a few of them. Some of the work's most compelling characters will disappear for hundreds of pages at a time and their big moments will be told through other character's points of view. It almost feels like Vinge had a lot of character stories he wanted to tell, so he stuffed in as many as he could. And while that gives the world a nice sense of fullness, it makes some of his characters feel a little superficial even when they should be objectively interesting. Also, even though it really doesn't matter at all, (view spoiler)

That said, some of the characters were very well done. I think that Vinge is better at writing alien races than he is humans, which is awesome. The whole ending is pretty great, and the epilogue hit just the right note of conclusion and future possibility, which I'd imagine is really hard to do as a writer. And most importantly, it's just a really fun, imaginative read.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Connie I love the review, and agree with just about everything you said! I loved the ending (but agreed that it was a bit rushed). Vinge's characters definitely aren't the worst I've ever read--but they're definitely the weakest part of the story.

It's funny--I was talking about the book with my Dad after he finished it, and his biggest gripe was exactly what you have under the spoiler cut!

Katie Thanks! And thanks again for recommending Vernor Vinge. And yep, the characters aren't terrible (some of them are even really well done, I think), but I think it's the one thing that keeps me from really loving his books (instead I just really like them).

And yeah, the more I think about that the more it confuses me! I kind of thought that he was going to go in that direction - and I think that (view spoiler) - but it was just so abrupt.

Connie Yes! I'm with you on the 2nd spoiler! I thought the puppy love was a bit trite; I'm glad they moved on. But the other thing was just like...huh?

Anyway, glad you (overall) like Vinge :) Let me know if you read anything else that's fun! I started another Alastair Reynolds before classes started, but just haven't had much chance to read :( I'm hoping to finish it up during spring break in a couple of weeks!

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