Zones of Thought

Zones of Thought - Vinge Vernor I love me a good space opera--and this is one both grand and original. This is known as the Zones of Thought series because of the structure of Vinge's imagined galaxy. In it, there are various zones that allow for different levels of tech and intelligence. In the "Mindless Depths" of the Galactic core no intelligent life is possible. The zone of "Great Slowness" that contains the now dead Earth contains intelligent life, yes, but you must go father out into the "Beyond" for faster than light travel and artificial intelligence to be possible. And beyond that, in the "Transcend" there are God-like Powers at best indifferent to ordinary sapient, and in some cases malignant. Against this backdrop humans have long made it to the Beyond, and in this series we also encounter some of the most memorable, original and endearing aliens I've read in science fiction. In A Fire Upon a Deep there are the dog-like Tines who have packs that form one individual mind, and the Riders--something like potted plants--or potted sea weed. In A Deepness in the Sky there are the "Spiders" of Arachna. And in both cases they interesting not just as races but as individuals. The second book is a prequel to the first, with Pham Nuwen, one of the most intriguing human characters in the series as the common factor. Peaking at reviews a lot of people expressed disappointment in the third book, a direct sequel to A Fire Upon the Deep. I beg to differ though--I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and found the third book just as suspenseful and moving as the previous novels in Zones of Thought trilogy--or, I think, series, since given where this ends this demands more. Maybe that's why some found this a let down. Either of the first books could be read as stand alones. There's a good case to be made for reading either of those first two books first. That's not true of The Children of the Sky. It's no standalone, and I'm glad I had recently read A Fire Upon the Deep otherwise I imagine I might have been a bit lost. Children of the Sky begins two years after the first book ends. We meet a lot of old friends again: Pilgrim, Woodcarver, Amdi, Ravna, Johanna, Jefri--and well, others not so cuddly. But there are new characters, alien and human into the mix. If I have any criticism, it's that one development that is supposed to be a shock I could see coming a mile away--although my clue was this writerly thing that those who don't pay close attention to technique might not notice. Otherwise I'm still very charmed by the dog-like Tines, still find Vinge a remarkable storyteller, and I'm looking forward to the next (and last?) book in this series.