Monday, March 11, 2013

The Children of the Sky

By Vernor Vinge

Here is a novel I'd been waiting for with impatience ever since I saw it came out in hardback (why do they still do that?) as it is a direct sequel to Vinge's excellent 1992 novel, 'A Fire upon the Deep'. Unfortunately, many reviews across the internet panned the novel and expressed extreme dissatisfaction with it, and I'm not big on sequels as a principle, so I was almost scared to touch it lest it ruined the previous stories. Vinge's ex wife already soured me on sequels when I read one of hers to 'The Snow Queen'. Way to ruin a good story!

Oleg was also a Vinge fan and had also wanted to read it, and with hindsight I guess I ought to have let him read it first whilst I worked my way through the pile of books I had in line. The sad part is, 'The Children of the Sky' is not as good as Vinge's other books in the Zone of Thought series, but the novel isn't nearly as bad as the reviews claimed, and I think Oleg would have enjoyed it. I should just point out that the current batch of books I'm reading were all bought with either Oleg's recommendations, or with the knowledge that he'd probably read the after me.

'The Children of the Sky'is about the struggles of a group of human's who have been stranded on a planet populated by an alien race known as the 'Tines'. Tines a small packs of dog like creatures with a shared intelligence. Each pack is therefore a person. Vinge obviously enjoys his pack/intelligence idea and I think he must have given it a lot of play time thought over the last few decades. He makes constant comparisons between people as individuals and as packs and sometimes this seems to be the actual point of the book. I'm not sure why it would take any one tweny years to write a sequel like this one, but as it has a rather open ending, I guess there will be another one coming at some point, unless of course it takes Vinge another twenty years to produce the next book, in which case I doubt he'll live long enough! Get on with it Vernor. 

I liked the story, even though it was fairly unremarkable. Perhaps best of all was the missing character of Pham Nuwen whose cloying omnipotent presence was the least attractive element of the previous books. With Nuwen now just a fading memory, he was tolerable part of the plot.

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